Defra publishes response to EPR consultation

On Saturday (26 March), the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) published its response to the consultation on Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) for packaging.

UK houses of ParliamentIn the document, Defra announces that the EPR system will be implemented from 2024, rather than the original implementation date of 2023. The system will focus on payments from household packaging waste and packaging in street bins managed by local authorities, with payments to be determined from 1 April 2024.

Modulated fees based on recyclability will be introduced from 2025, a year later than the original implementation date of 2024. In England and Northern Ireland, the system will not include payments for packaging that is littered. Scotland and Wales are currently considering obligating producers for these costs, with separate proposals expected to be published ‘in due course’.

The threshold for producer recycling obligations and disposal cost payments will remain the same – £2 million turnover and 50 tones of packaging handled per year. However, a lower threshold of £1 million turnover and 25 tonnes of packaging handled per year will be introduced for producers to report packaging placed on the market only.

Business packaging waste

Plans for the collection and management of business packaging waste have been dropped, Defra stating that this will ‘simplify and de-risk delivery’ of the system. Payments for household packaging will be used to support improved recycling collections for households, the inclusion of film and flexible packaging in kerbside collections, and the implementation of consistent recycling collections.

Defra adds that it will ‘continue to explore’ payments for business packaging waste, establishing a task force, with the involvement of producers, local authorities and the waste sector, to ‘continue to improve data and develop and review options for payments for business packaging waste’. A review is scheduled for 2026/27.

Until then an interim solution will be introduced, as there is ‘no viable solution for implementing payments from 2024’. This will be based around the current Packaging Recovery Note (PRN)/Packaging Export Recovery Note (PERN) system.

Deposit return scheme

The consultation response document outlines the scope of the proposed UK Deposit Return Scheme (DRS), noting that responses to its 2021 consultation on the system are still under review.

The DRS will be all-in, with all single-use containers between 50ml and 3ltr falling within the system’s scope. This will include units sold both individually and in multipacks, in line with the approach taken in Scotland.

Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles and steel and aluminium cans will be included in the DRS, with glass bottles excluded regarding the possibility of glass smashing or mixing within reverse vending machines, resulting in ‘poorer quality glass than is collected currently through kerbside recycling’.

When reviewing the range of materials to be included, the Welsh Government considered the impact of the DRS against the baseline recycling rate in Wales, the statutory requirements of the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act, and the devolved nation’s commitments to becoming a net-zero and zero waste nation by 2050. Ultimately, the Welsh Government decided to include glass bottles within its DRS, with the exclusion only applying in England and Northern Ireland.

A mandatory takeback scheme will also be introduced for the collection and recycling of fibre-based composite cups. Sellers of filled units that employ 10 or more FTEs will be obligated to provide a dedicated bin for the collection of cups in 2024, and report to the regulators the tonnage they have placed on the market and the tonnage they have collected and sent for recycling.


All packaging will be required to be labelled with Recycle Now’s recycle mark and relevant text (recycle/do not recycle), enabling a single approach across the UK. The policy will have no minimum threshold.

All compostable and biodegradable packaging will be required to be given the ‘do not recycle’ label. The consultation response document states that ‘further evidence is needed’ to consider the disposal of compostable material via industrial composting as recycling, including independent evidence on the benefit to soils and land of including compostable packaging into compost and digestate.

Next steps

The Scheme Administrator will be appointed, with the Treasury expecting that it will be classified as being within the public sector. The body will begin to operationalise in 2023, Defra says, becoming fully operational in 2024.

After two years of its operation, the EPR system will be reviewed. This will take into account the proposals of the taskforce, as well as progress in reducing the volumes of packaging in street bins and littered on the ground.