Packaging data specialists Ecoveritas today warned that further delays in publishing detailed guidance place the ambitious timetable for sweeping EPR reforms at risk.
Extended producer responsibility (EPR), the flagship packaging policy on which a low-carbon path to circularity in the UK hangs, is designed to help ensure unnecessary packaging is avoided, more is designed to be recycled, the quality of recycling improves, and there is less littering. Its implementation has been delayed until 2024, with the government continuing to thrash out what modulated fees will look like.
While the need for better understanding, identification and management of waste is crucial to improving recycling rates, the gathering of data from different parts of the value chain creates a data burden. Businesses of all different shapes and sizes will have brand-new, complex obligations to meet.
“It is effectively a second waste and recycling revolution,” said Josh Remi, Ecoveritas’ Commercial Manager. “And we are on the cusp of revolutionary changes. Yet the government continues to take the blasé approach to another level.
“What businesses need, right now, is detailed guidance. Keep in mind that some businesses don’t even know obligations are coming. They need time to set up effective IT and reporting systems, so they are well prepared for the heavy data requirements when the legislation begins.
“We need more robust data-collection and tracking methods to provide a full end-to-end picture of how waste is collected, transferred, processed, and reused, and to identify areas of improvement in the processing and recycling of waste. This generates a huge data burden for entire supply chains.
“Although the original start date of EPR has been pushed back a year to 2024, we must not be fooled into thinking that this gives us plenty of time – keep in mind that reporting will need to cover packaging placed on the market from January to December 2023. There is a huge amount to do on a relatively short time scale – the new system will require so much more data than businesses are accustomed to collecting under the current system Producers and packaging manufacturers are moving into a more challenging world – and arguably they should if they are to truly reduce the environmental impact of their packaging.”
This complex cocktail of policy initiatives ensures the right balance between encouraging best practices without unduly impacting consumers, but the packaged goods value chain has much work to do.
The most forward-looking brands and packaging companies are already factoring modulated EPR fees into their business decision-making. Eco-modulation will affect producer payments in 2025 based on 2024 sales, with different penalties or bonuses to be set for different categories of material.
Remi added: “The waste and recycling revolution is clearly also a digital revolution as businesses focus on real-time data reporting. 2022 brings the next stage in Ecoveritas’ evolution and transition to a data-driven software model, all while innovating and creating customer value in new and adjacent areas, as well as deepening our investment and commitment to our partners. Our strong culture of innovation and integrity is key to the next decade.”