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Environment Agency Reports On 2018 Packaging Enforcement Activity

The Environment agency has published the results of its 2018 compliance monitoring and enforcement for packaging producer responsibility. The results highlight the importance of understanding and submitting correct packaging data, and the rise of non-compliant behaviour.

The Environment Agency carried out 23 enforcement undertakings (EUs) in 2018, resulting in a total of £421,991.49 being paid out to environmental charities by businesses who failed to comply with the packaging regulations.

Civil sanctions were introduced in 2011 as an alternative to prosecution for businesses who have been non-compliant with the Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging Waste) Regulations.  Since then, there has been a total of 265 Enforcement Undertakings, contributing millions of pounds to environmental charities. However, this latest report from the Environment Agency shows there are still a large number of non-compliant producers  operating. The EA stated in their report: “We have observed increasing levels of intent to mask and hide non-compliance. As a result, we have refocused some of our resources into a dedicated national investigations team, specifically focused on producer responsibility.”

Aside from companies avoiding the cost of compliance with the packaging regulations, the report found 0.2% of UK direct registrants fail to purchase all their packaging recovery notes (PRNs) to offset the UK obligation.

The Environment Agency (EA) highlights an error of 99.8% from one business that had overestimated the amount  of packaging it handled by 81,485 tonnes. The obligation cost, of approximately £3 million for the appropriate evidence, was disproportionate to the business turnover. More alarming was that the company “did not appear to be aware of the implication of the costs” in November. The EA has reported that the overestimation was due to data errors, a misunderstanding of the regulations and a lack of clarity on the requirements to buy evidence. The audit and subsequent resubmission meant that the business could qualify as a small producer and reduced the pressure on wood PRNs by several thousand tonnes, as well as the overall market.

Packaging Compliance Scheme Manager at Clarity, Martin Trigg-Knight, said: “This report from the EA highlights the importance of accurate and rigorous data submissions, with misplaced decimal points potentially leading to millions of pounds of evidence required. Thorough audits, both from the EA and from producer compliance schemes, means we can ensure the PRN system is working as designed and packaging producers are contributing the correct amount to ensure recycling targets are met and money is reinvested back into recycling infrastructure

“The packaging recovery note markets have been extremely volatile this year, with plastic seeing all-time highs. But despite these rising costs, with the EA stepping up investigations of non-compliance, it is vital that any business that thinks it may not be meeting its obligations takes swift action. Preparing an enforcement undertaking takes a lot of work and a great deal of evidence must be provided to satisfy the regulators that the process has been taken seriously. And whilst a business may have the opportunity to avoid prosecution, in most cases a civil sanction will cost considerably more than registering for the correct number of years, alongside the untold price of potential reputation damage.”

Comply with Clarity

At Clarity we offer several data support packages to our members, to ensure your business can be guided by our experts throughout the packaging data submission process, avoiding any undue stress.

If you believe that your business may be obligated under the Packaging Waste Regulations, contact our specialist team for a confidential discussion about the options available to you. Our approved packaging compliance scheme has helped many businesses to avoid criminal prosecution by completing and submitting enforcement undertakings on their behalf. Get in touch with our team for a no-obligation quote on 0845 129 7177.

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