Is your Business ready for the New UK Packaging Regulations - which require action from 1 March 2023?

By Georgie Messent, Begonia Filgueira, Alex Hawley and Christina Robertson.

New UK Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) laws for packaging will introduce obligations for businesses selling, importing and handling packaged goods, as well as brand owners and online marketplaces - defined as “producers”- from 1 March 2023. If companies already have the data, Defra would like producers to start reporting from 1 January 2023. This applies across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland and each of the nations are governed by their respective regulations.

As part of a transition to a circular economy and working towards net-zero carbon emissions, these laws push obligations up the chain to producers of packaging - to drive changes in design and consideration of its end of life treatment.

New registration, data collection, reporting and payment requirements are being introduced for businesses placing packaging on the UK market. Furthermore, a number of businesses have calculated that the changes will be many times more expensive than UK Plastic Packaging Tax (PPT).

This article summarises the reforms and their impact, flags relevant compliance dates, and looks at the steps businesses could be taking to prepare for the changes, as well as how PwC’s specialist teams can assist.

Packaging regulation is due to change across the whole of the EU by 2024. To date changes have been introduced in France in 2021, Germany in 2022, Spain in December 2022, Sweden from 1 January 2023 and now the UK. This means that businesses who class as producers of packaging in various European jurisdictions need to revisit the requirements of their packaging regulations and ensure compliance with the new regulatory frameworks.

What do producers need to do?

Producers who are affected by the new UK reforms will need to:

  • gather detailed packaging data from 1 March 2023 (or sooner if producers have this information); and
  • for large organisations, register with the regulator from July 2023, and report data for the period 1 March to 30 June by 1 October 2023.

The obligations differ depending on whether you have a large or small organisation, where the thresholds are:

  Large organisations Small organisations
Turnover  > £2m/year > £1m/year
Tonnages > 50 Tonnes/year of empty packaging/packaged goods on UK market > 25 T/year of empty packaging/packaged goods

Businesses will still need to buy PRNs or PERNs to meet recycling obligations, if required under those frameworks.

Non-compliance with these legal obligations could result in civil sanctions including fines, and criminal prosecution in the most serious cases. Reputational damage is also likely, given increased scrutiny by stakeholders of ESG compliance.

To whom do the new laws apply?

The new laws will apply to businesses, subsidiaries and groups (excluding charities) doing the following activities, who will be deemed “producers” of packaging waste:

  • brand owners who sell packaged goods on the UK market under their brand name;
  • importers of filled packaging into the UK, which can be either the importer where it is based in the UK or if not, the first UK owner of the packaging;
  • businesses who sell packaging to small producers not caught by the EPR thresholds, known as distributors;
  • online marketplaces based in the UK who sell in the UK packaged goods of sellers based outside the UK;
  • sellers of packaged goods to the end user, e.g. supermarkets;
  • manufacturers in relation to secondary and transit packaging; and
  • those who supply reusable packaging, through hiring or lending.

When data needs to be collected?

From 1 March 2023, producers will need to report data such as the weights and composition of primary, secondary and tertiary packaging broken down into material categories including plastic, paper, glass, wood, and “other” (which must be specified). As mentioned above, Defra would like producers to report from 1 January if they have this information already.

Businesses will also need to report whether or not that packaging is likely to end up as household or non-household waste and in certain cases, its destination within the nations of the UK.

EU Context

Not only are similar EPR laws in force and changing across Europe, but the EU is also introducing new measures to harmonise packaging across the Single Market - introducing recycling and reuse targets, bans on more types of packaging and measures to encourage the reduction of packaging waste. The Draft Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation (which is EU wide and directly applicable, so does not need to be separately implemented by each Member State) was published by the Commission on 30 November 2022, and it is likely that we will see this Regulation being passed during 2024, as EPR and packaging is a priority in the EU. UK businesses who export their products to the EU, and EU businesses who import products to the UK, will need to consider how both the EU Packaging Regulation and UK Packaging Regulations impact their business at a compliance and strategic level.

Key Steps to Prepare for the Changes

From our experience, we anticipate that businesses caught as producers, with obligations from 1 March 2023, will need to:

  • Check if they fall within the definition of a producer and if they’re a large or small organisation;
  • If they have international operations, consider how the UK and wider EU changes differ (where each EU jurisdiction will have separate obligations) and the data gathering implications;
  • Review supply chain contracts, to ensure inclusion of adequate provisions for accurate and timely data pass-through on a regular basis and put processes in place for gathering reporting data;.
  • Check green claims relating to packaging can be upheld; and
  • Establish horizon scanning processes - for example, we know that EPR changes are planned for Batteries and WEEE in the UK and elsew

How can PwC help?

Our multi-jurisdictional team is currently advising on EPR reforms in the UK and across Europe. We can help you navigate the EPR maze by providing the following support:

  • Horizon scanning on EPR regulatory changes across the UK and Europe.
  • Strategic planning - understanding how the changes to your responsibilities as a business and as a producer of packaging will change in the next 3 to 5 years, and how that impacts your business.
  • Bespoke staff training and comms - we can run workshops to explain the changes and prepare training manuals, to ensure awareness of EPR laws.
  • Compliance mapping - we work with local experts to advise on registration, reporting and other logistics, as well as broader compliance frameworks.
  • Data gathering and Operational systems - we can provide data gathering technology solutions and operational systems, to help gather the right information from supply chain partners and create efficiencies.
  • Liaising with regulators - if past non-compliance is identified, we can help with liaison with regulators to manage next steps and minimise reputational damage.
  • Deep dive on specific legal questions - we regularly provide ad hoc legal advice on standalone queries and have partnered with clients on this over many years to provide support.
  • Contract support - we can support you as you review contracts with your supply chain partners, to build in requirements for accurate, timely and consistent data reporting.
  • EPR optimisation - we can work with you to provide a pan-European view of compliance, share learning across jurisdictions and help you identify efficiencies.
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