Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging Waste) Regs

Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging Waste) Regulations 2007

The United Kingdom legislation is long established, first introduced in 1997 and subsequently updated to the current “The Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging Waste) Regulations 2007 (as amended)”. This implements an EC Directive, the aim of which is to reduce the amount of packaging waste going to landfill sites by setting targets for recovery and recycling of packaging waste.
Who is obligated? Any company which handles 50 tonnes of packaging (or more) per year and which has a UK turnover of £2 million or more.
The law affects all companies who:

  • Manufacture materials for packaging (Producer activity).
  • Convert materials into packaging (Converter activity).
  • Put goods into packaging (Packer/filler activity).
  • Sell products to a customer who removes the packaging (Selling activity).
  • Import packaging or packed products from outside the UK (including using second-hand packaging).
  • Lease packaging to another company.
  • In addition, special rules now apply to Franchisors/Pub operating companies.
For most companies their obligation is for any packaging that they pass on to their customer. This will include packaging around the products supplied and any packaging added (bags, wrap etc.). UK packaging that is removed and disposed as waste within the company does not incur an obligation. If a company is responsible for the direct importation of product with packaging they have an obligation for this packaging.
An obligated company is required, each calendar year, to:

  • Register with the relevant Government Agency (i.e. Environment Agency) or one of its’ officially accredited Compliance Schemes and pay an annual fee (plus a joining fee for some schemes).
  • Calculate the weight of packaging it handles each year, categorised by material relating to the activity performed
  • Pay levies to a Compliance Scheme, or purchase PRN’s (Packaging Recovery Notes) to provide to the EA, according to its level of obligation for each material.
  • Data must be “as accurate as reasonably possible”.
  • Evidence of correct categorisation of packaging by activity and material.
  • Clear indication of methodology.
  • Sources of data identified.
  • Clear audit trail with all relevant paperwork
  • Returns and back-up data to be kept for a minimum 4 years.
The penalties for non-compliance are:

  • Non-registration involves three offences for each year; Non registration, Not submitting data on packaging handled and Not providing evidence of recovery and recycling (PRN’s).
  • The fines applied by the Courts reflect the “avoided cost” for prior years together with a penalty cost and court costs. Continuing offences can incur unlimited fines, imprisonment of directors and even closure of the company.
  • Civil Sanctions is a possible alternative to prosecution, whereby the Agency may agree to an “Enforcement Undertaking” between the company and the E.A. to pay a charity the money avoided by non-registration, together with a penalty premium, to implement a project with a specified environmental benefit. J Williams & Associates guide and assist companies in their dealing with the E.A., calculate their obligation and “avoided cost” for prior years, identify suitable environmental projects and with the preparation and submission of the submission for an “Enforcement Undertaking”.
Think your company may be obligated but is not registered? Non compliance is an offence under criminal law and prosecution carries substantial penalties of fines plus costs. For expert advice to find the most cost effective way of complying, contact J Williams & Associates’ packaging experts on 01491 872837 or email  John Williams for advice.

We are proud to have two of our industry specific processes accepted by the Environment Agency (EA) as “Acknowledged Methodologies”:

JWA Automotive Aftermarket Packaging Waste Data Methodology (Trade sector- Vehicle parts, equipment, chemicals and accessories)

JWA Wine Wholesalers and Importers process (Trade sector- Wines, Beers, Spirits & Soft Drinks wholesalers and importers)

This status is only granted after rigorous review of both the written process and their application, and recognises that the methodology meets the requirements of the UK packaging waste regulations, providing clients with greater reassurance as well as simplified audits by the EA. 

The Government Agencies responsible for implementation and enforcement are:

  • Environment Agency (EA) – England & Wales
  • Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) – Northern Ireland
  • Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) – Scotland

Links to the websites of these agencies are available from our Links page

Pub Operating Companies
Any tenanted pub company that individually meets the £2 million turnover and 50 tonne thresholds will continue to register separately for the Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging Waste) Regulations 2007 . However, in addition, an obligated pub company that runs tenanted pubs will also incur the producer obligation for their tenanted pubs that fall below the packaging thresholds individually, provided that together those pubs meet or exceed the threshold.  The Obligation applies to packaging that they supply to the tenanted pubs and any packaging that the tenanted pub is committed to use under the terms of their agreement.
Any franchisee that individually meets the £2 million turnover and 50 tonne thresholds will continue to register separately for the Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging Waste) regulations 2007. However, in addition, the obligated Franchisor, will incur the producer obligation for those Franchisees that fall below the weight threshold individually, provided that the group handles more than 50 tonnes of packaging per year. The Obligation applies to packaging that they supply to the franchises and any packaging that the franchisee is committed to use under the franchise agreement.
Businesses that Lease Packaging
The activity of “Service Provision” relates to businesses that lease pallets, crates and similar packaging to other companies. The regulations require that the lessor will bear the obligation for the packing/filling and selling activities on the first use of leased packaging. If you lease packaging (the lessee), there is no change and you do not incur any obligation under these regulations.
SMEs with sales < £5m
There is a simpler process, the Allocation Method, which can be adopted in place of the detailed data requirements by SME’s that have a turnover of between £2 and £5 millions and also handle a minimum of 50 tonnes of packaging per year. An SME can only register through a Compliance Scheme and must provide the following information to the scheme:

  • Annual turnover (£) in the last financial year in respect of which audited accounts are available before the relevant date, rounded up to the nearest ten thousand pounds.
  • The predominant packaging material handled i.e. paper.

The compliance scheme will then determine the amount of packaging waste, in tonnes, that is the SME recycling obligation using the formula (Turnover/1,000,000) X Recycling allocation (30 tonnes for 2014) The SME will be required to pay the annual EA registration fee together with any compliance scheme fees and their charges for obtaining PRNs. It should be noted that SMEs who opt to use the allocation method are required to use this method for a minimum period of three years, provided their turnover doesn’t rise above £5 million, when they would have to register using the method of full data submission.

Consumer Information Obligation
Companies defined as “sellers” under the packaging waste legislation also have an obligation (Consumer Information Obligation) to pass on recycling information to their customers. This requirement is usually fulfilled by Compliance Schemes on behalf of their members, but direct registrants with the Agencies must take action to communicate with their customers.

The cost and responsibility for the recovery and recycling of packaging waste is shared by all sectors of the packaging chain. The share allocated to each sector for 2016 is shown in the following pie chart.


The UK has a target, for 2016, of 78% for recovery of packaging. Within this the targets for recycling are material specific and are shown on the adjacent bar chart.

  • Paper 69.5% 69.5%
  • Glass total 77% 77%
  • Glass – re-melt share of total glass 67% 67%
  • Glass – other share of total glass 33% 33%
  • Aluminium 52% 52%
  • Steel 75% 75%
  • Plastic 49% 49%
  • Wood 22% 22%

Want to reduce the hassle of compliance? Contact us now for a free initial consultation