EPR: What delay means for you
Defra has officially announced a delay in several significant components of the extended producer responsibility (EPR) for packaging reform program, which presents additional complexity for affected producers who now face an intricate regulatory environment in the coming year. Henry Smith, Valpak's Policy Researcher outlines five essential aspects producers need to understand about the delay and their current obligations.
On 25 July, Defra confirmed it was delaying a number of important aspects of the extended producer responsibility (EPR) for packaging reform programme. Whilst many welcome this, for individual producers it further complicates the regulatory landscape they need to navigate over the next 12 months.
Here are 5 key things producers need to understand about this latest announcement and their responsibilities as they now stand:
1: It is EPR fees that have been delayed
The EPR for packaging reforms introduces a variety of new responsibilities for producers. Defra is delaying some of those responsibilities, most notably the responsibility to pay new waste management fees, commonly referred to as ‘EPR fees’. These novel fees are intended to cover the net costs of local authority household waste management services, with producers previously due to start paying them in October next year, to cover their obligations for the packaging they placed on the market across 2023. The introduction of these fees has been postponed by 12 months, so now producers will start paying EPR fees in October 2025 for packaging placed on the market across 2024.
2: EPR reporting has not been delayed
Obligations to report packaging data in a new way, based on new producer categories (i.e. brand owner, importer, online marketplace, etc.) and the principle of single-party responsibility, passed into law in March 2023. Despite delaying EPR fees, Defra has not altered these data reporting laws. As such, large producers are still required to collect and report their packaging data for EPR from 16 August, and they have until 1 October to complete that report. They will have to make a second report by April 2024, and new small producers will also have to make a single data submission by that date as well.
3: Producers still have to fund the recycling of packaging next year
EPR fees were due to be introduced as part of a new statutory instrument that would replace the Packaging Waste Producer Responsibility Regulations 2007; however, the 2007 regulations will now remain in place for an additional year. This means that producers in line with the principle of shared producer responsibility (seller, pack/filler, converter, raw material manufacturer, etc.) placing packaging on the market in 2023 will have to obtain PRNs across 2024. This is of particular importance to packaging and material manufacturers many of whom were expecting to have no (or significantly reduced) obligations under EPR. Their obligations will continue for an additional year. This also means that producers will have to make an additional data report by April 2024 on top of any EPR data reports they need to make.
4: EPR reporting is vital
Some may be tempted to not take EPR reporting requirements seriously, perhaps submitting inaccurate data. Producers must avoid this pitfall. EPR reporting is a legal requirement, and data reported must be as accurate as reasonably possible. There are increased penalties for failing to meet this requirement. Furthermore, the environment agencies are already notifying producers about audits to examine the accuracy of EPR data reports. What’s more, government will use the data submitted across 2023 and 2024 to produce estimates of the likely EPR fees for 2025. If the data supplied is inaccurate then these estimates will not be indicative and will undermine stakeholders preparations.
5: EPR fees being delayed are not the only reform to have changed
Eco-modulation of EPR fees will now apply to fees paid in 2026 for packaging placed on the market in 2025, 12 months later than previously expected. The introduction of mandatory takeback requirements for some sellers of filled fibre-composite cups has also been delayed by 12 months to 2025. But Defra’s latest announcements are not just a story of delay. Defra has now released the draft version of the EPR statutory instrument that would have introduced EPR fees and is seeking stakeholders’ views on the instrument (further information on this is available here).
Further, they have announced they will ramp up their efforts to involve industry and local government in the development and design of EPR reforms during the delay period, a key example of which is their new plans to phase in the establishment of the new EPR scheme administrator, with greater industry involvement planned for that governance body.
Given the announcement of delays to EPR reforms, many may be tempted to disengage from the day-to-day developments, but producers must continue to engage with the intensity they have so far shown, as much is rapidly changing, and because industry input at every stage is now more vital than ever.
Valpak can help
If you have any queries about these reforms to the Packaging Waste Regulations, Valpak’s expert team is on hand to help you. Please do not hesitate to get in touch by calling 03450 682 572 or completing our online enquiry form.