Over recent years there have been significant regulatory advancements in Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) for Packaging policy across the EU and in the UK. This is leading to revisions in current schemes for packaging, batteries, and WEEE, while also extending EPR to producers and products who haven’t been included in packaging waste regulatory systems before, creating fresh compliance, registration, financial and reporting demands.
As is the case with the UK, the European Union (EU) is dedicated to tackling environmental challenges and promoting sustainability through Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) programmes, particularly in packaging waste management. However, while EPR principles are consistent across EU member states, the implementation and specific regulations can vary significantly.
This article explores the differences in EPR for packaging rollouts among EU member states, shedding light on key differences and their implications.
Balancing Harmonisation and National Adaptations in EU EPR for Packaging Waste
Underpinning the EU’s single market philosophy is the principle of harmonisation. However, the implementation of EPR for packaging waste exemplifies a delicate balance between harmonisation and national flexibility. Member states adapt overarching EU directives to accommodate their unique environmental, economic, and industrial contexts.
While the majority of EU member states have adopted EPR systems, it’s important to note that not all have done so. Underpinning these efforts is the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive, which mandates that all member states establish EPR schemes for packaging by the year 2024.
Austria connects the obligation to meet packaging EPR with the local presence within the county. However, distance sellers that do supply to end users, must take over the EPR obligations as well. The obliged parties can choose between a range of collective schemes and can also split their tonnage of obligations between different schemes.
Any economic actor who places more than the threshold of packaging onto the market in Belgium must join one of the two collective schemes that manage the packaging waste on the territory in Belgium. The responsibility between the two schemes is split according to professional and household packaging waste.
Producers and importers of packaging material in Bulgaria can select between different collective schemes and pay a contribution fee based on their sales volume. This avoids the payment of a so-called “product charge” if recovery and recycling targets have not been met by the producer/ importer.
Bulgaria applies packaging marking regulations.
Packaging compliance in Croatia requires producers/importers of packaged goods to join a central government organisation and pay fees according to their sales volume.
Croatia applies mandatory packaging labelling regulations.
The collective compliance with the packaging legislation in Cyprus is provided by a monopolistic scheme.
Cyprus is the last country that applies a mandatory usage of the Green Dot logo.
Any economic actor who places more than the threshold of packaging onto the market in the Czech Republic must join the monopolistic packaging scheme. This ensures a standard rate for packaging contribution fees for all economic actors.
Denmark will introduce packaging EPR in 2025. Threshold levels will apply. Producers and importers will have to register with the central authority and will need to join a packaging collective scheme.
Producers and importers of packaging and packed goods must join one of the three collective schemes and pay contribution fees according to their volume put onto the market.
Any producer and importer of packaging and packed goods into Finland can join the monopolistic packaging compliance scheme or ensure meeting the targets individually. Individual compliance is possible by approval directly by the central authority Prikanmaa Centre.
France was the first country to implement Extended Producer Responsibility in the EU and with no minimum amount of packaging threshold, this obligates every business placing packaging onto the French market, from their first sale.
Along with other measures, France places particular emphasis on reducing packaging waste by promoting reuse. It has introduced regulations that incentivise producers to adopt packaging designs that facilitate reuse and refillable systems. There are mandatory targets for producers around re-used packaging, encouraging them to invest in designing packaging with longer lifecycles and reusability in mind. France’s rollout of pEPR (Packaging Extended Producer Responsibility) includes a modulated fee system where packaging producers will pay a reduced EPR fee on re-useable packaging. This approach encourages a shift away from single-use packaging and fosters a circular economy mindset.
Germany’s EPR approach is highly advanced, with an intricate system that encompasses a wide range of packaging materials.
German law mandates that all sellers of packaged goods to final consumers in the country must guarantee the recycling of their product packaging. This involves both enrolling in the dual system and obtaining packaging licenses. The money from acquiring these licenses is used to fund the collection of packaging waste, which is collected separately from residual waste, and the remainder of the money goes to waste facilities funding their recycling efforts of packaging waste.
Collective compliance in Greece is provided by a quasi-monopolistic scheme. Producers and importers of packed goods pay contribution fees based on their sales volume weight put onto the market.
The usage of the Green Dot logo is no longer mandatory.
The new EPR legislation in Hungary requires registration with a central authority and the participation with a central collective scheme. The sales volume reports are transferred to the authority. The contribution fees based on the weight volume reports are payable to the scheme.
The legislator in the Republic of Ireland applies a threshold to producers/importers of packaging into the country. Those actors who are obliged to register must join a monopolistic packaging compliance scheme and report the sales volume weights to this organisation and pay the according contribution fees.
Italy’s EPR models a decentralised approach, allowing individual regions to manage their waste management systems within national guidelines. This approach acknowledges the diverse waste management infrastructure across Italy and tailors EPR systems to local contexts.
Producers/importers of packaging that exceed the threshold level can choose between three packaging compliance schemes in order to report the sales volume weights to these organisations and pay the according contribution fees.
Any producer and importer of packaging and packed goods into Lithuania can join the monopolistic packaging compliance scheme or ensure meeting the targets individually. Individual compliance requires contracts with local waste management companies that need to provide the according waste certificates as a proof for the achieved compliance.
Lithuania applies mandatory packaging labelling measures.
There is only one collective scheme in Luxembourg that producers/importers of packaged goods can join. Its main focus is household packaging waste.
Producers/importers of packaged goods can join the monopolistic compliance scheme or must demonstrate their individual compliance on the basis of contracts with waste operators. Individual compliance needs approval by the authority.
Malta applies mandatory labelling measures on the packaging.
The Netherlands emphasises a collaborative approach involving producers, retailers, and consumers. Although the principle of EPR remains the same, the Netherlands’ regulations encourage producers to form agreements with municipalities and waste management companies to collectively achieve recycling and recovery targets as well as implementing a Deposit Return Scheme as a part of EPR for packaging. This approach fosters cooperation among stakeholders for effective waste management.
Even though it is not a member of the European Union, Norway still applies the packaging EPR principles that are laid out in the European Packaging Directive. Producers/importers of packaged goods can either comply on the basis of individual agreement or join the oligopolistic scheme structure in the country and pay contribution fees to these organisations.
Producers/importers of packaged goods can contract with one of the collective schemes, can opt for self-compliance or they can report the tonnage placed on the market and pay a “product charge” to the National Fund for Environmental Protection and Water Management.
Producers/importers can either join a collective scheme, comply individually, or come to a voluntary agreement with the National Waste Authority.
Producers/importers may fulfil their recovery and recycling obligations by delegating their obligations to an approved compliance system or through individual compliance with approval by the authorities. The collective scheme landscape is oligopolistic.
The compliance in Slovakia is achieved by joining one of the collective schemes that the country provides.
Packaging compliance can be achieved by joining one of the six collective schemes.
Individual compliance is approved for non-household packaging waste, but obliged producers/importers must obtain a certificate of registration from the Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning.
Slovenia applies mandatory marking requirements for packaging.
The Spanish legislator has expanded the EPR scope which now covers also industrial packaging. Generally speaking, a registration with the central authority is required as well as participation in a respective collective scheme for household or industrial packaging waste.
Incentivising Sustainable Packaging
In Sweden, the EPR system is strategically geared towards providing incentives for producers to champion environmentally sound packaging. Fees are heavily weighted on packaging’s environmental impact, encouraging producers to opt for sustainable materials and innovative designs. This approach drives packaging-related innovations and supports the circular economy model.
There is no packaging EPR regulation in Switzerland.