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Extended Producer Responsibility

Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) puts the onus on manufacturers and producers to consider the whole lifecycle of a product. It is often referred to as ‘the polluter pays’ tax. This includes packaging durability and whether it can be recycled or repurposed at the end of its useful life.

Global governments use EPR across sectors ranging from food to electronics and household white goods, to incentivise businesses to re-evaluate the lifetime value of what they produce, and the materials those products and packaging are made from.

Understanding Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) packaging legislation

In the UK, Government is proposing to introduce EPR for packaging in a phased approach from 2023. This will see businesses take full financial responsibility for product packaging beyond its initial use. In Europe, member states pay annual fees of approximately €3.1 billion towards EPR schemes. And individual countries collect fees under a variety of systems.

The EPR proposals also expect packaging to be more clearly and consistently labelled. This will make it easier for consumers to understand when something can or cannot be easily recycled via kerbside collection schemes and infrastructure currently in place.

Producers of commonly littered packaging, such as fast-food trays and single-use cups, will have to cover the cost of managing the litter, either via packaging return schemes or paying for street cleaning.

Alongside reducing the amount of product packaging, businesses will be expected to contribute to improving Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) and Plastic Recovery Facility (PRF) capabilities nationwide. This will come via investment in new technology, plus upgrades to current hardware and operating systems.

Who will be affected by EPR legislation

Under the new rules, Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) will place full onus on packaging manufacturers, brands, retailers and take-away food and drink premises to cover the cost of dealing with the waste they produce.

The benefits of introducing EPR legislation

The new rules will incentivise businesses to make more sustainable choices across all products and packaging manufacturing, including reconsidering the type of materials they use, increasing the volume of recycled materials and reducing all types of packaging whenever possible.

In the UK, Government estimates that in the first full year of EPR implementation businesses will shoulder EPR costs of £2.7bn. That cost is currently met by the taxpayer via central government, and the local authorities that dispose of household waste.

There is already considerable evidence to suggest that tougher EPR legislation will be effective. An element of producer responsibility for packaging has existed in the UK since 1997, helping to increase recycling from approximately 25% 20 years ago, to 63.9% in 2017.

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The proposed EPR reforms will supercharge recycling to an estimated 78% packaging recycling rate by 2030, with the estimated recycling rates for each material exceeding those currently set in the European Union to:

  • glass 96%
  • card 86%
  • steel 93%
  • aluminium 69%
  • plastics 62%

The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) estimates this increase in packaging recycling rates will generate 3.1 million tonnes of traded carbon benefits and 1.3 million tonnes of non-traded benefits between 2023-2032.

Polytag’s role in EPR

Polytag’s Describe, Tag and Trace technology is applied to packaging during the production process. This enables businesses, governments and consumers to understand how packaging is managed ‘post-consumption’.

The code holds information such as when and where the packaging was produced and the percentage of recycled materials it includes.

Once disposed of, ‘Polytagged’ packaging is scanned at the MRF or PRF where it can be recorded, analysed and sorted for onward reprocessing.

Data from each tag applied to packaging is held in the cloud and is openly accessible thanks to GS1 standards. This mean that not only will individual businesses be able to trace and account for their own product packaging, but both government and consumers will also see how brands are contributing to the circular packaging economy.

To measure business liabilities and enforce the EPR legislation, governments need reliable data to understand what types of packaging materials and in what volume, individual businesses are sending to MRFs and PRFs.

Businesses will also need to collate data to enable and benchmark EPR progress, and packaging tax reporting and use as part of the sustainable brand stories. Polytag services can help all businesses operating with extended producer responsibilities and welcome a conversation to see how we can help.

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Get in touch to discuss how we can help you prepare for future Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) legislation

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