Defra confirmed on 25 July that the waste management fees under Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) for packaging will be delayed by one year.
The waste management fees aim to reimburse local authorities for the collection and management of packaging waste, by charging liable packaging producers under a new single point of compliance. The fees apply to packaging that is deemed to be household waste or commonly ending up in public bins.
The fees were previously scheduled to be operational in 2024, based on 2023 packaging data. However, the government update released yesterday states that the fees are now delayed until October 2025, meaning they won't apply in the first year of EPR.
Government have stated that the delay comes “following extensive engagement with industry and in light of the pressure facing consumers and businesses in the current economic context” and that “the additional year will be used to continue discussions on the scheme’s design with industry and reduce the costs of implementation wherever possible.”
They have also stated that they will give an indication of what the fees will be in 2024 and they will vary depending on the materials reported. From 2025 the waste management fee will also vary depending on how easily the packaging can be recycled. The fee will be lower for packaging that is easier to recycle.
Data and PRN requirements are unchanged
Whilst the waste management fees have been delayed, the new data reporting obligations for small and large organisations under EPR have not. The statutory instrument, published earlier in the year, stipulates that obligated large producers must report detailed packaging data twice a year, and small producers once a year. This legislation has not been revoked, and the first deadline of October 2023 for H1 large producer data remains the same.
The PRN obligation will also continue for the 2024 compliance year as planned, based on 2023 packaging data. This will be the sole financial obligation for large producers under EPR until waste management fees also apply from October 2025.
Government have also confirmed that the much-delayed consistent recycling collections for households will come in after the implementation of the EPR scheme.
Eliminate all avoidable waste by 2050
Environment Minister Rebecca Pow commented on the delay “We’re determined to transform the way we collect, recycle and reuse our waste materials so we eliminate all avoidable waste by 2050 in a way that works for households and consumers. That’s better for our environment. We are also listening to industry and ensuring our work to tackle inflation and to drive up recycling go hand in hand, to make sure our reforms will be a success.”
Paul Vanston, Chief Executive of the Industry Council for Packaging and the Environment (INCPEN) commented “UK and devolved Ministers are making the right set of decisions at this time to drive forward the shaping of the collections and packaging reforms. Ensuring overall systems efficiency, cost-effectiveness and high recycling performance are essentials for the governments and stakeholders to achieve together.”
Not enough political will
Ecosurety innovation and policy director Robbie Staniforth commented "It comes as no shock that the timelines for waste management payments have been delayed. While civil servants have been working hard to meet the challenging timescales, there simply hasn't been enough political will or strong leadership at pace from the senior politicians above.”
“It is a shame that five years after declaring an intention to introduce "full net costs", under an Extended Producer Responsibility system, that the Government are still not ready. All the major stakeholder groups have devoted countless hours to help government understand what is required, but unfortunately, the topic of packaging, and its reuse and recycling, didn't prove to be a significant enough priority to the department or wider Government.”
“The decision to delay is a sensible one, but it is tinged with sadness for what could have been."
A mixed response from industry
The announcement has received a mixed response, with producer associations such as the Food and Drink Federation welcoming the delay and recycling industry representatives including CIWM, The Recycling Association, LARAC and the ESA expressing frustration and disappointment.
Cathy Cooke, chair of the Local Recycling Advisory Committee (LARAC) commented that LARAC and its members are “extremely disappointed and frustrated” by the announcement, consequently meaning they “will have to continue to foot the bill for the management of packaging waste, whilst the producers of said packaging have once again been provided a ‘stay of execution’ by the government.”
Meanwhile, Karen Betts, chief executive of the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) commented “It’s a bold decision to go back to the drawing board and reappraise the scheme and the corresponding waste reforms but it’s the right one, especially in the current economic climate with inflation at record levels. But the hard work starts now. It’s critical that government works rapidly with industry and others to ensure we create a consistent, efficient, nationwide scheme that drives up recycling rates across the UK and enables more recycled material to be used for new packaging."
Producers must act now
The data reporting requirements are much more granular than in previous years and it is critical that producers complete their data requirements without delay. Ecosurety has contacted all packaging members with clear instructions on what to do next and its members can also access an extensive range of knowledge resources in the Ecosurety Hub website.
If you are not yet a member of Ecosurety, find out more about packaging EPR and how we can help.