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Packaging Waste Legislation

The packaging waste regulations are in place to ensure that businesses are responsible for the recovery and recycling of packaging waste in the UK.

Are you obligated?

If your business produced or handled more than 50 tonnes of packaging in the last year AND you have a turnover of more than £2 million you will need to comply with the Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging Waste) Regulations.

Introduced in 1997, these regulations require companies to finance the recovery and recycling of packaging materials in proportion to the amount they have placed on the market.

What does handling packaging mean?

Packaging is all products made of any materials used for the containment, protection, handling, delivery and presentation of goods, from raw material to processed goods, from the producer to the user to the consumer, including non-returnable items.

Your responsibilities

To comply with the regulations you must:

  • Register with the Environment Agency (either directly or through a compliance scheme such as Comply with Clarity packaging compliance scheme).
  • Recover and recycle specific tonnages of packaging waste each year.
  • Certify that this has been done.

How to comply with the Packaging Waste Regulations

Obligated businesses are required to purchase evidence to meet their Producer Responsibility (Packaging Waste) Obligations from accredited recyclers. A company’s obligation is a proportion of the packaging handled in one year. This means a business must calculate the tonnage of packaging it has handled in the previous year, by material.

The number of PRNs a business needs to purchase is dependent upon the amount of packaging handled, as well as the activity carries out on that packaging. Each activity has a percentage associated with it.

How to calculate your obligation

To calculate your obligation, you must consider:

  • The packaging activities that were carried out for the previous calendar year.
  • The material, subdivided into aluminium, glass, paper, plastic, steel, wood and other and weight in tonnes of the packaging on which you carried out these activities.
  • The UK business targets for the current compliance year.

Recyclable materials and recycling targets

In March 2017, packaging targets for 2018 to 2020 were announced to ensure that the UK continues to meet EU Directive targets over the next 5 years. The table below shows the business recycling targets.



2016 (%)

2017 (%)

2018 (%)

2019 (%)

2020 (%)

2021 (%)

2022 (%)


77 77 78 79 80 81 82


52 55 58 61 64 66 69


75 76 79 82 85 86 87


69.5 69.5 71 73 75 79 83


49 51 53 55 57 59 61


22 22 38 43 48 35 35

Total Recycling

71.8 72.7 73.6 74.5 75.4 76 77

Future legislation

The reform of the UK Resources and Waste Strategy will see the implementation of new legislations including Extended Producer Responsibility, the Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) and consistency in recycling collections. A Plastic Packaging Tax will also be introduced in 2022. Learn more about these areas of future legislation as well as the Environment Bill and the major impact they will have on packaging producers and the recovery and recycling of packaging waste in the UK.

Comply with Clarity

Our Comply with Clarity scheme has supported businesses in complying with Producer Responsibility Obligations for both the packaging and WEEE regulations since 2007. With our expert in-house trading team, we provide market-beating fair and competitive pricing, transparent invoicing assurance as well as ethical recycling evidence to our members.