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Unpacking the myths of the Packaging Waste Regulations

Ross More
Jan 15, 2020

The Packaging Waste Regulations affect a large number of UK businesses; however, it can be difficult and quite daunting for an individual to try and decipher whether or not their business is affected, especially when faced with a list of criteria the business needs to meet in order to have an obligation. I have also found that many businesses aren’t even aware that these regulations exist.

If a company meets the thresholds of these regulations, it is legally obliged to comply. It is therefore paramount that you check to see if your business meets the criteria, as failure to register with the relevant environment agency and comply can result in prosecution, financial penalties and negative publicity.

Due to the complex nature of these regulations, I can see how misunderstandings occur, which may result in some people believing their business is exempt when in fact the regulations do apply.

Common misconceptions

With this in mind I have produced the following list of common misconceptions, which lead people to believe their business is not obligated, when they are actually required to comply:

“My company has a turnover below £2 million and handles less than 50 tonnes of packaging annually; therefore, does not meet the thresholds…”
The company could still be obligated if it is part of a UK group of companies that collectively meet the thresholds.


“My company recycles packaging / doesn’t have any packaging waste on the premises i.e. all packaging is passed on…”
If a business performs a relevant activity on packaging, such as adding empty packaging or supplying packaged goods to customers, which they then remove, it could still be obligated. The regulations do not relate directly to a business’s site waste.


“My company does not add any packaging to products before passing on…”
The company could still be obligated if another relevant activity is performed, such as supplying pre-packaged goods to customers, even if they were packed by a third party.


“My company does not package any of the goods it sells…”
If the business sells packaged goods it has a ‘selling’ obligation for any packaging that its customers remove. It could also be obligated if it imports goods into the UK (even if it doesn’t handle the packaged goods).


“My business uses returnable / reusable packaging…”
If the business uses brand new returnable / reusable packaging it will be obligated for the first use of this packaging.


“Our packaging is all second hand…”
If the business imports goods, empty packaging or raw materials, it has an obligation on this packaging, even if it is second hand.


“We take back packaging from our customers…”
Packaging used to supply goods to another legal entity or consumer is obligated, even if a business takes it back. For example, a retailer delivers a dishwasher to a customer but the box is removed on site / in their vehicle it would still be obligated for this packaging.


“We use a contract packer that adds packaging for us…”
If your business buys the packaging it would have an obligation on that packaging as a ‘packer/filler’, even if it doesn’t own the packaging when it is added. It would be obligated as a ‘seller’ if a customer removes the packaging.


“Our customers do not remove any packaging…”
The business is still obligated if it:

  • adds products to empty packaging
  • imports packaged goods
  • imports raw materials or components


“My business doesn’t make packaging; add packaging or supply packaging to customers…”
If a business imports raw materials, components or goods for business use it could still be obligated.

Valpak can help

If you are unsure if your business is affected by the Packaging Waste Regulations please do not hesitate to get in touch. We will talk you through what you need to do and will provide specific guidance.

Visit our Packaging Compliance page for further information or take our quick and easy “Are you obligated” test.


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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this weblog represent those of the individual authors and not those of Valpak Limited or any other organisation.