Introduction

The new Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) for packaging regulations impact all UK organisations from 2023 that handle or supply packaging. If that describes your organisation, you must check if you have any obligations. This article explains how.

If you have not done so already, please see this article and video to understand what packaging EPR is.


EPR obligation criteria

To find out if the new packaging EPR regulations apply to your organisation, you must check if ALL of the following criteria apply to your organisation:

  • You’re an individual business, subsidiary or group (but not a charity)

  • AND your annual turnover is £1 million or more (based on your most recent annual accounts)

  • AND you were responsible for more than 25 tonnes of packaging in the previous calendar year

  • AND you carry out any of the specified packaging activities listed by government

Important to know

All packaging supplied through the UK market or imported, emptied and then discarded in the UK, counts towards the 25 tonne threshold.


Packaging activities

For the last point, government have provided six packaging activities, and you may need to act if you do any of the following:

  1. Supply packaged goods to the UK market under your own brand - This includes selling packaged goods labelled with your own brand. A brand includes a logo, trademark, or any distinctive mark. It is important to note that the legal owner of the trademark, as listed on the gov.uk registered trademark register, will be classed as the brand owner of the packaging and will pick up the obligation. You may also need to take action if you pay another company to produce or pack goods sold under your brand name, place your branded goods on the UK market or import goods for you.

  2. Place goods into packaging that’s unbranded when it’s supplied - This includes placing goods into packaging that is unbranded when it is supplied, for your own or another organisation.

  3. Import products in packaging - This applies if you import products from outside the UK that are in packaging, and you go on to supply these products to the UK market - even if you discard the packaging before selling the goods. This activity does not apply if you import filled, branded packaging on behalf of a UK-based brand-owner or you import filled, unbranded packaging that you supply to an organisation classed as large under packaging EPR that applies its own brand before supplying it on.

  4. Own an online marketplace - This applies if you operate a website or app that allows non-UK organisations to sell their goods into the UK. Selling goods from UK organisations only on an online marketplace does not meet this definition and you should check if other activities apply to your organisation.

  5. Hire or loan out reusable packaging - For example, hiring out or loaning reusable pallets or reusable food containers to other organisations in the UK.

  6. Sell empty packaging - For example, if you manufacture or import empty packaging and then supply it to a business that is not classed as a large organisation under packaging EPR, as they have an annual turnover under £2m and handle and supply less than 50 tonnes of packaging a year.

Under EPR a single organisation takes on 100% of the responsibility for any given piece of packaging, including reporting and financial obligations (although a different organisation could pick up a nation data reporting obligation if they sell it directly to consumers).

The listed activities illustrate that this single point of compliance will usually rest with the brand owner or importer of the packaging.

Important to know

Online marketplaces selling packaged goods or empty packaging from outside of the UK are obligated for the first time under packaging EPR - they were not included in the previous packaging producer responsibility regulations.


Packaging definition

When considering the thresholds and packaging activities, be aware that government have defined packaging as:

"Any material that is used to cover or protect goods that are sold to consumers. It makes handling and delivering goods easier and safer. It also includes anything that's designed to be filled at the point of sale, such as a coffee cup. Packaging also makes goods look appealing and it may display a company's logo or brand. 'Goods' could include raw materials or manufactured items."


De minimis threshold

If your organisation does NOT meet ALL four of the main criteria (including at least one of the six packaging activities), then you fall under the de minimis threshold and have no packaging EPR obligations, apart from mandatory labelling requirements that will apply to all packaging.

If this is the case, we strongly recommend that you continue to check if you ever become obligated in the future, due to a change in your sales, turnover or packaging activities.

Charities also automatically fall under the de minimis threshold and have no action to take.

Important to know

Even if your organisation does not have an obligation under packaging EPR, you may be asked to provide data and information on your packaging by another organisation that is obligated. This is because the liability and reporting requirements effectively move up the packaging supply chain for businesses that fall under the de minimis.


Groups and subsidiaries

Groups of companies have a choice to either register and comply individually or as a parent company on behalf of the whole or part of the group.

If some of your subsidiaries do not meet the turnover and tonnage requirements in their own right, but do meet the requirements when combined, you should register as a parent company for that part of your group.

If a parent company registers on behalf of part or the whole of a group of companies, they will comply on behalf of those companies.

Guidance about how franchise businesses are obligated under packaging EPR can be found here.


Nation data criteria

You should also check if a separate nation data requirement applies to your organisation, to supply data about which nation in the UK your packaging is supplied to.

If your organisation has a packaging EPR obligation, you will also need to submit nation data if you:

  • supply filled or empty packaging directly to customers in the UK, where they are the end user of the packaging

  • supply empty packaging to UK organisations that are either not legally obligated, or are classed as a small organisation

  • hire or loan out reusable packaging

  • own an online marketplace where organisations that are based outside the UK sell their empty packaging and packaged goods to UK consumers

  • import packaged goods into the UK for your own use and discard the packaging


gov.uk EPR obligation checker

Government have provided an online tool to check if you have any packaging EPR data obligations. To visit the gov.uk checker please click here.


Next steps

If you DO meet all of the main criteria, then you will have an obligation and actions that you must legally complete under the new EPR regulations.

Next you must determine if you are classed as a small or large organisation under EPR for packaging, as this will determine your reporting and financial obligations, and the deadlines for you to complete any required actions.

Each organisation type has its own threshold criteria for you to check, which we explain in the article Identify if your organisation is classed as small or large.


External references

gov.uk EPR obligation checker tool

Read the official packaging EPR guidance on gov.uk


Ben Luger Ecosurety

Ben Luger

Marketing Project Specialist

Ben helps drive marketing communications and projects for Ecosurety, including project managing the launch of the Ecosurety Exploration Fund and website content development.

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