Survey suggests packaging industry still has some way to go to meet new obligations

As many as a third of manufacturers are unaware of extended producer responsibility (EPR) obligations for packaging, according to a new study.

New rules are coming in for packaging

New rules are coming in for packaging

Initial findings from the study, which was produced jointly by OPRL and Packaging News, with input from Defra, highlight the disparity in understanding, and the scale of work still needed if packaging producers are to meet their obligations when the legislation is fully implemented in 2024.

Under EPR rules, all packaging must be labelled to show consumers whether it is collected and recycled, and whether there is an end market for it. The government has proposed a single label design based on the same Recycle Now swoosh currently used by OPRL.

All packaging types, except for plastic films and flexibles, will be required to be labelled by 31 March 2026. Plastic films and flexibles must be labelled by 31 March 2027.

The aim of EPR for packaging is to incentivise more sustainable packaging design. With 59 per cent of those surveyed agreeing that EPR is a “real game-changer for the UK packaging industry”, and 56 per cent saying it will “radically alter the way packaging is designed”, the report gave encouraging signs that EPR will act as an effective driver, according to OPRL.

The survey, which was published in January 2023, surveyed 219 Packaging News subscribers. The majority – 74 per cent – handle or supply packaging placed on the market. Food and beverage made up the largest market, closely followed by household goods and personal care products.

Margaret Bates, executive director at OPRL, reassured packaging producers that even those with knowledge gaps can implement changes that will help them to prepare. “The survey shows that while almost three-quarters of respondents are aware of EPR, when it comes to specifics, knowledge gaps are common,” she said. ”For example, while 71 per cent are mindful that they will need to label consumer packaging with recycling information under EPR, only 57 per cent have confidence in how to apply this.

“We help many producers who face the daunting task of implementing change across thousands of product lines. But our experience shows that labelling is one of the areas where brands can give themselves a head start. Fifty-eight per cent of the survey’s respondents agreed that EPR will improve the UK’s recycling rates, and demonstrating the recyclability of packaging through correct labelling will help to bring consumers on board and support the nation’s shift to a more circular economy.”