Extended ProducerResponsibility (EPR)

EPR... Are you ready?

Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) for packaging is now underway. With its introduction, the Government will require businesses to be responsible for the packaging they place on the UK market at the end of its life. The new EPR system will replace the current Packaging Waste Regulations.

As a member of OPRL, we will keep you up-to-date on what we know about EPR and give you information on what this means to you, plus:

  • Recycling labels that are EPR-compliant – don’t risk fines and bad PR by getting it wrong
  • Tools to help you select the right labels – get ahead of EPR by updating your labels now
  • Support from an organisation with over 13 years’ experience in recycling labels

Not yet a member?

Membership starts from as little as £395 per annum*

Find out more about our membership here.


*Price based on OPRL small  membership category

The current system of producer responsibility for packaging, the Packaging Recovery Note (PRN) system, has been in place in the UK since 1997 and has helped to increase recycling of packaging waste from 25% to 63.9% in 2017. However, as with any system that is over 20 years old, it needs reform.

The EPR proposals are designed to make producers responsible for the full net cost of managing packaging once it becomes waste, alongside setting more ambitious recycling targets for producers, and introducing clear and consistent labelling for recyclability. The costs of EPR are considerably more than the current system, with the current estimates suggesting that obligated producer costs will be around £1.7 billion each year.

It’s hoped that this cost transfer (from tax payer to producers) will incentivise more sustainable packaging choices.

There are still a number of decisions to be made about how the EPR scheme will operate. Government has deferred these decisions to the Scheme Administrator, who will be appointed shortly. This is likely to be a public sector body who will be fully operational by 2024; they are key to the success of the system.

EPR will apply across the UK (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland). Government has proposed the introduction of a single point of obligation (i.e., a single producer is responsible for the cost of managing a piece of packaging). This will focus the obligations onto those who are best placed to reduce and/or increase the recyclability of the packaging they use, so is most likely to be the brands and retailers.

Ahead of the implentation of EPR, there will be an interim solution for managing packaging waste arising from businesses. This will be based around the current Packaging Recovery Note (PRN) system, whereby packaging producers purchase PRNs and PERNs to show they have met the recycling obligations for the packaging they have placed on the market, and to support investment in reprocessing.

The new EPR system will have the same de minimis (minimum level where this is applied) for producer recycling obligations and disposal cost payments as the current PRN system (turnover of £2m and handle 50 tonnes of packaging). But a new lower threshold is being introduced for reporting obligations of turnover of £1m and handle 25 tonnes of packaging. There is no lower limit to the obligation for mandatory labelling – it is suggested that all packaging must be labelled but for small businesses the requirement may be on the producer that sells them the unfilled packaging.

Under the new system, all obligated producers will pay a fee for the packaging they place on the UK market. These fees will be modulated; for example, those who use unrecyclable packaging will be required to pay higher fees than those using recyclable packaging, which should provide an incentive to achieve increased recycling.

It is planned that these fees will help to deliver funding to support additional collections and upgrading of infrastructure to allow recycling of currently unrecyclable materials, or to incentivise greater uptake of reuse and refill business models and systems.

The Scheme Administrator will be a public body rather than producer led, but there should be considerable opportunity for producers to be involved.

The good news is that Government has aligned with OPRL and has proposed a single label design based on the Recycle Now Swoosh (as the OPRL labels are currently).

Producers will be required to label packaging using the Recycle Now mark and relevant wording (Recycle/Do Not Recycle).

Producers can choose to subscribe to a labelling scheme and use the services provided by that scheme, which means that as an OPRL member you can maintain your membership with confidence knowing that your label already has the necessary label, and also that OPRL are working closely with government to develop the recyclability assessment methodology.

All packaging must be labelled, there will be no exemptions for small businesses.  However in those instances, the requirement may be on the producer that sells the small businesses the unfilled packaging to ensure the label is correct. The regulations are likely to require the packaging manufacturer to provide packaging recyclability information to the distributor who sells unfilled packaging to small and micro businesses (or small and micro businesses when selling the packaging direct).

All packaging types (except for plastic films and flexibles) will be required to be labelled by 31 March 2026. Plastic films and flexibles by 31 March 2027.

The Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) will be the organisation responsible for the monitoring and enforcement body of the labelling requirements.

In March 2022 DEFRA announced the introduction of EPR from 2023. The first requirement on reporting means that businesses need to start collecting data on their packaging from January 2023, for reporting in the Summer. The Scheme Administrator (SA) will also be appointed in 2023 and will be fully operational in 2024

The rest of EPR will be implemented in a ‘phased manner’ from 2024, focusing on payments for household packaging waste and packaging in street bins managed by Local Authorities, with such payments being determined from 1st April 2024.

Full implementation with modulated fees based on recyclability will be introduced from 2025.

In July 2023 DEFRA announced that there will be a delay to the implementation of EPR for a year. You will not have to pay any fees in 2024, however, you must still report your packaging data for 2023 and you must continue to pay any fees due under previous regulations.