Through an amendment to the Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging Waste) Regulations 2007, packaging businesses will have additional requirements with which to comply in respect of the introduction of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) for packaging which are due to come into force in 2024. This will have an impact on food producers irrespective of whether they subcontract packaging of their produce or carry it out themselves.
EPR is a waste prevention programme which seeks to pass the responsibility and full financial cost of managing product packaging waste to packaging suppliers. Packaging suppliers will be responsible for every piece of its product packaging beyond the post-consumer stage of a product’s life-cycle.
What effect will EPR have on food suppliers?
The EPR scheme will encourage food suppliers to think about the packaging they are placing into the food market and to consider ways of increasing recyclability allowing empty product packaging to be used productively instead of going to waste.
Product packers will seek to pass the additional costs incurred as a result of complying with EPR to food suppliers. In turn, this could erode profit margins unless the added costs are passed to consumers.
If they have not done so already, food suppliers will need to consider the move to sustainable and eco-friendly materials in their product packaging. Alongside the goal of boosting recycling and shrinking waste, the EPR scheme aims to encourage suppliers to design and produce products with packaging that is reusable, easy to dismantle and recycle at the end of the product’s life cycle. This is particularly pertinent in the food sector as food packaging is often single use.
The Food and Drink Federation said in 2021 that “while FDF and its members have long called for much needed reform to the EPR system, we have warned government that any changes to the system would need to be achieved in a manner that would not result in inflationary costs for businesses or consumers”. With the added cost of running businesses in the current economic climate, this is another cost that food suppliers will need to carefully consider in pricing its produce.
Food suppliers will also want to ensure that adequate obligations are imposed on packaging subcontractors in order to comply with the EPR. This could include using particular materials or ensuring that certain recycling marks are clearly printed on the packaging.
How can food suppliers prepare?
The upcoming demands of the EPR scheme and its consequences for food suppliers raises the question as to what food suppliers can do to prepare and comply. From 2026, all food packaging will need to be marked with a consistent logo to show if it can or cannot be recycled, making it easier for consumers to dispose of packaging correctly. Food suppliers may need to conduct an end-of-life assessment of its product packaging to assess how best to handle disposal in line with EPR obligations. Early planning for food suppliers will be key.
Whilst additional fees for packaging will unavoidably become payable under the EPR scheme, food suppliers should bear in mind that recyclable and reusable packaging will attract a lower fee. The introduction of the EPR scheme and encouraging the use of eco-friendly food packaging has the benefit of reducing waste levels and representing a sustainable future for the UK.
Whilst some of the key considerations for food suppliers ahead of the implementation of the EPR scheme are considered in this article, this is not intended to be an exhaustive and fully informative guide.
The content of this article is for general information only. It is not, and should not be taken as, legal advice. If you require any further information in relation to this article please contact the author in the first instance. Law covered as at July 2022.