EPR reform: Why Brands Must Work Together To Ensure Innovation Remains At The Heart Of Packaging

Packaging data specialist, ecoveritas believes packaging design and innovation investment is now at risk due to the UK government’s Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) reforms.


Should these proposed EPR reforms be implemented, ecoveritas CEO David Harding-Brown claims that the available budgets for developing effective, sustainable and minimal waste packaging may ‘simply evaporate’ before the revival period even begins.


In addition, professional structural and graphic designers, substrate developers and sustainability experts may find their jobs are at risk due to a distinct lack of investment as packaging companies start paying the penalties of under-performing materials on the market.


“This is an industry that has been under pressure for just doing its job for many years now,” says David. “In recent times, the industry has had to deal with the EU Plastics Packaging Levy, a UK Plastics Packaging Tax, the continual threat of a DRS system, a huge increase in Packaging Recovery Note (PRN) costs and the implications of a global pandemic. The principle behind the EPR consultation is that ‘the polluter pays’, but for a truly collaborative approach, the system has to be fair and sustainable.”


The EPR for packaging policy is set to replace the current PRN system. The policy extends the producer’s responsibility for a product to include the management of its packaging post-consumer use, shifting the waste management costs onto the manufacturers instead. According to the Food and Drink Federation, the second consultation for the EPR reform highlighted a drastic rise in costs, setting producers back to the tune of £2.7 billion in the first year of its implementation.


David continued: “Producers were bracing for a £1.5 billion hit indicated in previous EPR consultation stages, but this estimate has now risen considerably. The financial penalties involved are intended to act as a catalyst for innovation and development, smarter production methods and increased supply chain efficiency. Yet these processes take investment, both in time and money. For smaller brands and start-ups, this could effectively signal the end for those that operate on tight margins and low capex in a highly competitive market.”


With more than 100 years’ combined experience in the packaging industry, ecoveritas provides keen business insight and intelligence to support packaging companies, brand owners and retailers to make informed packaging strategy decisions. The data specialist offers a wide range of services including packaging lifecycle assessments, footprint analysis, cost impact assessments and packaging design optimisation to improve a brand’s environmental performance.


“The UK requires a system that recognises that there are many experienced professionals in the packaging industry that are ready to address the sustainability challenges we face and are in fact doing so in a responsible way,” added David. “The government must also recognise that consumers are polluters and that simply pushing the costs onto an industry sector, which is continuously challenged, is not an attractive option. We all have a part to play in this to ensure packaging is disposed of successfully without impacting the environment – and we need to make that clear in this latest reform.”

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