What are the Packaging Regulations?

The Packaging Regulations were introduced in 1997 in response to an EU directive. The objective of the Regulations is to increase the amount of packaging waste being recycled, which is funded by "taxing" companies who introduce packaging into the UK via their business activities.

Businesses with a turnover above £2million who handle packaging must firstly calculate the weight of packaging they introduce to the UK and then pay a levy (tax) based on materials and volumes of packaging handled.

The Packaging Regulations are often confused with back door waste, either waste transfer notes or ISO14001, neither of which can be used to offset these Regulations. Companies who are not registered are subject to prosecution by the Environment Agency and offenses can go back as far as 1997.

For obligated companies you must assess the packaging handled on an annual basis and pay a levy (tax) which is determined by the weight and type of packaging handled and the “activities” performed on that packaging.

Please click here to find out what is classed as packaging.
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The Producer Responsibility Obligations Packaging Waste Regulations

The Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging Waste) Regulations 2007 and Amendments also known as the “The Packaging Waste Regulations” are a legal requirement, affecting a number of UK businesses and operate like a form of ‘Packaging Tax’.

Obligated individuals, or groups of companies within the UK, need to calculate the amount of obligated packaging they handle and offset the cost of recycling this packaging waste material within the UK waste stream.

Although they are called the Packaging Waste Regulations, they have nothing to do with the way you dispose of your back door waste, they are concerned with the packaging you are handling or introduce into the UK as a result of your business activities.

As a packaging compliance scheme we have bespoke service to complete your packaging waste compliance process and provide you with all the help you need to ensure you are fully compliant Contact Us for more information.

A Form of Packaging Tax

The Producer Responsibility Obligations Packaging Waste Regulations form one of a number of Producer Responsibility Regulations in the UK. They are often referred to as simply the Packaging Regulations or the Packaging Regs and affect UK companies with a turnover >£2mil who handle packaging.

The Packaging Regulations 2007 adopts the Producer Responsibility principle, in that those who produce or introduce packaging into the UK should be responsible for the cost of recycling this packaging.

The UK Packaging Regulations created a Packaging Recovery Note (PRN) system whereby companies handling more than 50 tonnes of packaging, having met the £2mil turnover threshold, must provide evidence that a proportion of the packaging they have introduced into the UK has been recycled. However, the only evidence accepted by the Government are PRNs which prove that a company has met its Producer Responsibility Obligations.

PRNs or Packaging Recovery Notes can only be issued by accredited reprocessors of packaging waste and are effectively a ‘green tax’ or ‘levy’. When a company joins a Compliance Scheme, the Scheme takes on their legal obligation to purchase the PRNs, which it then recharges to Members according to their individual PRN obligations.

The Producer Responsibility Packaging Waste Regulations are therefore essentially a ‘Packaging Tax’ where a company must assess the amount of packaging they have introduced into the UK, which is subject to a range of complex criteria, and then offset their obligation by obtaining Packaging Recovery Notes which are like a form of recycling currency. The money paid for the PRNs is then invested by the Reprocessors who use the revenue to develop their capacity to recycle packaging waste.

So instead of the Government taxing companies directly and then funding recycling of packaging waste directly, they have instead set up a system whereby companies fund recycling of packaging waste via the PRN system to offset their Producer Responsibility Obligations. In short, the Packaging Regulations are essentially a ‘Packaging Tax’.

The EU and the Packaging Waste Regulations

The EU Directive 94/62/EC on Packaging and Packaging Waste, introduced measures where all EU member countries were set targets to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill. It was introduced to move towards a ‘zero waste’ economy where there is more packaging recycling taking place and resources are used correctly both financially and environmentally.

Within the UK the Producer Responsibility Obligations Packaging Waste Regulations 1997 legislation, was introduced in response to this EU Directive. It requires businesses to make sure that a proportion of what they sell, purchase or import is recovered and recycled, if they meet certain thresholds.

Producer Responsibility Obligations Packaging Waste Regulations only apply within the UK. EU Directive 94/62/EC on Packaging and Packaging Waste applies to all EU countries. Each country will have its own specific regulations using different methodologies. A company will need to comply with each country’s specific regulations separately within that country.

ISO14001

ISO14001 is a common industry standard which sets out the criteria for an environmental management system. It maps out a framework that a company or organization can follow to set up an effective environmental management system.

When dealing with the Producer Responsibility Obligations Packaging Waste Regulations we encounter a lot of companies who think that either ISO14001 offsets a company’s obligations under the Packaging Regulations, or that if they are ISO14001 certified they must be compliant with their Producer Responsibility Obligations.

Unfortunately ISO14001 cannot offset your obligation under the Producer Responsibility Packaging Waste Regulations and being ISO compliant may not necessarily mean you are correctly registered under the Regulations.

When becoming ISO14001 certified companies are asked whether they comply with legislation applicable to their business. An ISO auditor will frequently ask whether a company is compliant with the Producer Responsibility Regulations, but it remains the responsibility of that company to correctly assess this.

If a company informs the auditor that the Packaging Regulations do not apply they may not pursue this, or may be unable to confirm that the company’s calculations and understanding of the Packaging Regulations are correct.

This can leave a company with a continuing vulnerability to Enforcement Action under the Packaging Regulations. The Environment Agency can prosecute a company for non-compliance all the way back to 1997. A recent addition to the Packaging Regulations allows previous year’s non-compliance to be offset proactively as an alternative to a prosecution and at Kite we specialise in helping companies to complete these Enforcement Undertakings.

If you are in the process of becoming ISO14001 compliant and would like to confirm whether the Producer Responsibility Packaging Waste Regulations apply to your business we can undertake a Threshold Assessment for your company. This consists of applying our expertise with the Packaging Regulations to assess the obligated packaging activities you perform, develop a tailored methodology to accurately assess the size of your Producer Responsibility and calculate the weight of obligated packaging you have introduced to the UK system.

We will then provide you with a document which shows how your obligations were assessed and clearly demonstrates the volume of obligated packaging handled. This then allows you to prove, with confidence, that you are under the thresholds when your packaging compliance is audited.

Should you be over the thresholds we can swiftly move to get you compliant and register you under the Producer Responsibility Packaging Waste Regulations, allowing you to concentrate on the remaining ISO14001 requirements. We can also confirm in this situation whether an Enforcement Undertaking would be appropriate for your business.

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A Government Accredited Compliance Scheme for the Producer Responsibility Packaging Waste Regulations