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Guide to the Packaging Waste Regulations

Businesses or organisations that produce or use packaging, or sells packaging as goods, may be obligated packaging producers.

Who is obligated by the Packaging Waste Regulations?

If your business or organisation produces or uses packaging, or sells packaged goods, you may be a obligated under the packaging regulations. Known as a ‘Producer’, businesses that meet the following criteria must register and meet the Packaging Waste Regulations:

  • Handled 50 tonnes of packaging materials or packaging in the previous calendar year.
  • Have a turnover of more than £2 million a year (based on the last year’s financial accounts).

This can apply if you are a group of companies that meet the above criteria as well as individual entities.

What is classed as packaging under the Packaging Waste Regulations?

The government uses the following definition to classify packaging, this may be different to other environmental legislation definitions used.

‘Packaging’ is any material used to hold, protect, handle, deliver and present goods. This includes packaging for raw materials right through to finished goods to be sold or being sold. For example, pallets, boxes, bags, tape for wrapping, rolls, tubes and clothes hangers sold as part of the clothing item.

Why do we have packaging regulations?

The system of producer responsibility for packaging has been in place in the UK since 1997 and has helped to increase recycling of packaging waste from 25%, 20 years ago to 63.9% in 2017.

The packaging regulations are in place to ensure those businesses that are obligated fulfil their producer responsibilities. The regulations can help guide businesses in reducing the amount of packaging produced, reducing packaging waste that goes to landfill and increase the amount of packaging waste that is recycled and recovered.

How to comply with the packaging regulations?

Every year an obligated packaging producer must:

  1. Register as a packaging producer by 7 April
    1. Register via a compliance scheme, such as Clarity Environmental
    2. Register through their relevant Agency (Environment Agency (EA), Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) or Natural Resources Wales (NRW)
  2. Meet their recycling obligation
  3. Obtain evidence of compliance
  4. Submit a certificate of compliance (CoC) by 31 January the following year

When registering you would need to know and submit:

  • Appropriate contact details and business information
  • Packaging data
  • Main activity undertaken

Through the Environment Agency’s National Packaging Waste Database (NPWD) you will be given an automatically generated obligation through the above data submitted. It is important to follow the instructions carefully otherwise your target may be incorrect.


Packaging Recovery Notes (PRNs)

Packaging producers must obtain evidence of waste packaging recycling and recovery equivalent to the weight of your obligation.

This is done through obtaining electronic packaging recycling notes (ePRNs) and electronic packaging export recycling notes (ePERNs) for the waste packaging recovered or recycled by accredited exporter or reprocessor. PRNs and PERNs provide evidence of recovery or recycling and are a substitute for businesses meeting their obligation through their own recycling efforts.

By joining an accredited compliance scheme, they may undertake this process on your behalf.


Shared responsibility

The current regulations set out a system of shared responsibility, where distinct parts of the supply chain report and pay for the recycling of the packaging they put onto the UK market, helping to support the recycling industry.

The defined activities are below:

  • raw material manufacture – produce raw materials for packaging manufacture
  • packaging conversion – convert raw materials into packaging
  • packing or filling – put goods into packaging or put packaging around goods
  • selling – supply packaged goods to the end user
  • importing – import packaged goods or packaging materials from outside the UK, including raw materials that will become packaging, such as plastic pellets used to make bottles
  • service provider – a business that supplies packaging by hiring it out or lending it

This is important as, should you be an obligated business, it will impact your data submission and the process of submission to the Environment Agency.

What happens if a business does not meet their obligation?

If you should fail to meet your legal obligations, provide false or misleading information, or if you have avoided complying with the regulations for several years you may face prosecution.

Civil penalties also apply in England, Scotland, and Wales, which include fixed penalties and higher fines depending on the severity of the offence. If you think your company may have been obligated in previous years but has failed to comply with the Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging Waste) Regulations, you could be subject to enforcement action. It is vital to rectify any historic non-compliance proactively and before it’s identified by the Environment Agency. We have helped many businesses to avoid criminal prosecution by completing and submitting enforcement undertakings on their behalf.

Questions about the Packaging Waste Regulations?

Please get in touch, a member of our team will answer your query as soon as possible.

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Comply with Clarity

We understand that complying with environmental regulations can be a daunting task, and our affordable packaging compliance scheme has been designed to handle your producer responsibility obligations on your behalf, giving you peace of mind and saving you time and money.

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