Extended Producer Responsibility for the Construction Sector – what you need to know

Matt Nichols, Divisional Director at Reconomy, discusses what Extended Producer Responsibility means for the construction and demolition industry.

Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) is a new piece of UK legislation, which will come into force in 2023 and directly affect businesses that produce packaging waste. In this blog, I am sharing some key points about EPR so that you can start to prepare for the inevitable changes it will bring.

Since the introduction of the UK Packaging Waste Regulations in 1997, the waste and recycling landscape has changed considerably. There remains a massive shortfall when it comes to the amount of recyclable material being reprocessed back into secondary resources – meaning that too much packaging is still being disposed of as waste, rather than recycled.

As a result, this new legislation will place the cost and responsibility of new packaging coming into the marketplace squarely at the feet of the brand holders and importers that are creating it.

Linked to this, the Government is introducing a Plastic Packaging Tax in April 2022 as part of its wider environmental roadmap. This means producers or importers of plastic packaging that contains less than 30% recycled plastic will be taxed an additional £200 per tonne.

Construction and demolition businesses accumulate plastic packaging from a variety of products they purchase that are either shrink wrapped, bound with plastic straps, or protected with polystyrene. Because these businesses are classed as users rather than producers, they are unlikely to be directly affected by the legislation changes in the short term.

That said, if the industry isn’t collectively prepared, we will likely see an indirect impact from businesses supplying to the construction and demolition sectors, who could raise the prices of their products and materials to help cover the costs of their increased tax bills.

Many businesses are not aware of how much plastic packaging they use because they have never had to report it before. But with change on the horizon there is most definitely a requirement to get prepared, which will help protect your business from any additional costs coming down the line.

  • Tip 1: Don’t panic – there is time to get your house in order, but you need to start it now.
  • Tip 2: Analyse the packaging you use to better understand what arrives on your sites and what can be cut out or changed.
  • Tip 3: Set a strategy that changes the way your business managed materials and wasted packaging.
  • Tip 4: Collaborate with suppliers to bring about change.
  • Tip 5: Have your say – the Government will carry out consultations, so keep an eye on when these are so you can help shape the changes coming in.

At Reconomy, we have many great examples of instances where we have worked with our housebuilding customers to help them analyse their packaging. We identified materials by manufacturer by gathering the data and capturing it using the Insight Platform developed by our Group company, Valpak. We were then able to see packaging quantities, weights, material makeup and procurement contacts. By working with the manufacturers and suppliers we could see the split and determine what was recyclable and what wasn’t.

The platform can even break plastic down into polymer type (if this data is available), as this has an impact on recyclability. By determining which suppliers use certain plastic polymers, collaboration can take place to explore more sustainable alternatives.

As an added benefit of this exercise, we were also able to look at the carbon footprint of the packaging by material and supplier or by product. This provided valuable data for our customers to start seeing the bigger picture and begin challenging their own suppliers to introduce materials with less packaging, or packaging made from recycled and recyclable materials.

Although there remains a degree of uncertainty in some areas of the EPR legislation’s detail, we know change is coming. By acting now, you are not only protecting yourself financially but are also creating a more sustainable business for yourself. Your customers will value the proactive efforts you have made to promote changes that are positive for the environment – rather than just waiting for taxes to force change.

If you need help setting a strategy for your waste and resources, get in touch with Reconomy. We can help you to stay ahead of the game, with planning and road mapping that is aligned with the direction of the Government’s environmental strategy.