Defra publishes draft of packaging EPR regulations

Revision of statutory instrument has been sent to EU and WTO, paving the way for legislation to go before UK Parliament later this year.

PackagingDefra has today (1 May) published an updated draft of the Government’s statutory instrument for packaging extended producer responsibility (pEPR), in preparation for ‘bringing the legislation before parliament later this year, with the aim of it coming into force across the UK by 1 January 2025’.

The proposed Statutory Instrument, which is mandated by the Environment Act 2021, is designed to shift the financial and operational responsibility for packaging waste from the public sector and consumers to producers. In doing this, the Government aims to encourage producers to design products that are easier to recycle, reuse, or dispose of.

Key aspects of the draft regulations include:

  • Extending the responsibility to producers to cover the full cost of dealing with packaging waste, which includes collection, recycling, and disposal.
  • Encouraging improvements in packaging design that reduce waste and environmental impact.
  • Establishing clear roles and responsibilities for businesses, local governments, compliance schemes, and other stakeholders involved in the packaging life cycle.

Following stakeholder consultation in 2023, the latest iteration of the draft The Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging and Packaging Waste) Regulations 2024 makes some notable changes to the version that was published last year.

This includes the publication of recycling targets for qualifying packaging materials:

Category of packaging waste 2025 2026 2027 2028 2029 2030
Plastic 55% 57% 59% 61% 63% 65%
Wood 45% 46% 47% 48% 49% 50%
Aluminium 61% 62% 63% 64% 65% 67%
Steel 80% 81% 82% 83% 84% 85%
Paper, board or fibre-based composite material 75% 77% 79% 81% 83% 85%
Glass 74% 76% 78% 80% 82% 85%

Last week the Government confirmed that the introduction of deposit return schemes in the UK are now scheduled to begin in October 2027, with the provision (included in the regulations published today) that should these schemes be further delayed beyond 1 January 2028, then producers of drinks containers made of PET, aluminium and steel will be subject to the pEPR regulations.

As had also previously confirmed, the new draft regulations now set the date of labelling obligations for all types of packaging from April 2026 to April 2027.

Another change from the 2023 draft which Defra consulted on is the requirement for producers to make payments towards the costs associated with the prevention of packaging litter. These payments were initially meant to cover public information campaigns aimed at reducing litter from commonly binned items. The Government now plans to set out separate regulations for binned waste and litter payments.

The update in the legislation that requires the Scheme Administrator (SA) to provide guidance on the methodology used and the factors considered in assessing net efficient disposal costs and effectiveness addresses an earlier gap in the statutory instrument. Previously, there was not a clear, required procedure for explaining how disposal costs are calculated and what specific factors are taken into account.

This requirement aims to help all parties involved – particularly producers and compliance schemes – understand how fees are derived and what elements influence these calculations. It is aimed at enabling a more accountable system that can be audited and challenged if necessary.

The definition of ‘household packaging’ has been revised, so that a wider range of non-household packaging waste can be exempted from disposal cost fees. For example, packaging that is used predominantly in commercial or industrial settings, even if similar in design to household packaging, could be exempted under the revised criteria if it is not commonly disposed of through public or household waste systems.

Today’s revision has been sent to both the European Union (in respect of Northern Ireland under the Windsor Framework) and the World Trade Organisation to fulfil obligations to each, paving the way for the legislation to progress through the Westminster Parliament ‘later this year’. However, it remains to be seen how firm this timetable remains with the requirement for a General Election to take place in the next eight months.

Commenting on the the draft regulations Robbie Staniforth, Director of Policy and Innovation for packaging compliance specialists EcoSurety said:

"Having worked closely with Government to design the system over the last few years, it is great to see that they have finally notified the WTO and EU. This an important step in the process of bringing a system into existence that will motivate packaging producers to use more recyclable packaging or refillable packaging systems in the UK.

“In a few short months, there will be a clear path for this legislation to be laid and passed in parliament. Given we started this process in 2018, it has been a long time coming. Tribute should be paid to the resilience of the civil servants who have worked to design and draft the legislation we see today."

Packaging producers are already subject to EPR reporting requirements; by the end of this month (31 May) they must have submitted their packaging data for the previous year.