New Packaging Regulations on course for 1 January 2025

The UK’s Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has published a new extended producer responsibility draft, The Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging and Packaging Waste) Regulations 2024.

This draft is set to replace the existing Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging Waste) Regulations 2007, signalling a transformative approach to the management of packaging waste in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The 2007 regulations established a framework for producers to recover and recycle packaging waste, meet national targets, and contribute financially to the costs associated with recovery and recycling.

The 2024 regulations build upon these principles with updated requirements. For example, they introduce revised recycling targets for 2025-2030 and provisions for drinks containers if a deposit return scheme is not established by 2028 (see article below).

A key aspect of the new draft is the distinction between small and large producers, based on their weight of packaging material handled and company turnover:

  • Businesses that handle more than 50 tonnes of packaging materials and have a turnover exceeding £2 million are considered large producers, and
  • Businesses that handle 25 to 50 tonnes of packaging materials and have a turnover between £1 million and £2 million are considered small producers

Small and large producers must register, keep records and report data. However, small producers will generally have less extensive obligations.

This draft follows extensive public consultations and was submitted on 1 May 2024 to the EU and World Trade Organization to ensure compliance with international trade rules.

The UK government anticipates submitting the finalised Packaging Regulations to Parliament in the latter half of 2024, with the aim of it coming into force across the UK for 1 January 2025.

DRS delay confirmed

The United Kingdom’s bottle deposit and return scheme (DRS) will be delayed until 2027, thus entering into force four years later than initially planned. The four UK governments have worked together over the past couple of years to agree on a joint approach.

The Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (Defra) announced the delay in a joint policy statement with the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in Northern Ireland, and the Scottish and Welsh governments.

One reason for the delay was the potential inclusion of glass containers, which the Scottish and Welsh governments favoured.

However, due to opposition, the DRS will initially only include drinks containers made from PET, steel and aluminium. The position of glass containers will be determined in separate statements issued by each administration.

The new timeline for the DRS introduction is as follows:

  • Phase 1: Regulation and appointment of deposit management organisations (DMOs) – by Spring 2025
  • Phase 2: DMO set-up – from Spring 2025 to Spring 2026
  • Phase 3: Roll out – from Spring 2026 to Autumn 2027
  • Phase 4: DRS launch – October 2027

The size of containers in scope will be between 150 ml and 3 litres across the UK. All containers outside this range will fall within the scope of the EPR scheme for packaging.