Many would grumble that recycling and waste obligations are a burden on the brewing and hospitality sectors that rival the 2022 energy price hikes . With the PRN market not due to be reformed by Government until 2024 the system of packaging sustainability is one that brewers say is “unsustainable”. However, a change to a “polluter pays” system is here to stay and therefore, against this background we look at changes in legislation set to affect the sector.

Waste packaging – Extended Producer Responsibility

The pEPR scheme is designed to place the burden of packaging waste onto the businesses that are producing and manufacturing waste – ‘polluter pays’.

On 28 February 2023 a mandatory obligation on producers to collect correct packaging data came into effect (applying to England only). The Regulations require packaging producers to collect and report on the amount and type of packaging they place on the market. It will be mandatory to collect data from March 2023. Reporting periods will differ depending on whether the producer is a small or large organisation. Government guidance can be found here:

An interactive obligation checker has been produced by DEFRA to allow businesses to understand their obligations under pEPR by answering a series of interactive questions.

Action: check now whether pEPR obligations apply to your business and what you need to do next. Fees will come into force in 2024 – particularly as until PRN is phased out, affected businesses will pay fees under PRN + pEPR.  That is on top of tax under the Plastic Packaging Tax regime.

Packaging Waste recycling targets

New recycling targets have been set for 2023. These apply to all UK organisations that handle and supply packaging to consumers and businesses. These Regulations set an overall recycling target as well as material-specific recycling targets for 2023 on obligated producers in England and Wales in relation to glass, plastic, aluminium, steel, paper/board and wood. The Regulations set targets for 2023 at the same levels as the 2022 targets, pending the introduction of the Government’s reform of the packaging waste regime by introducing extended producer responsibility (EPR) in 2024 see above. For more information on packaging waste see here

Deposit Return Scheme (DRS)

The aim of a DRS is to increase the recycling of drinks containers and reduce litter through a deposit charged on containers at point of sale which is refunded when the container is returned or recycled. It is anticipated that the DRS will be launched in England, Wales and Ireland in 2024.

Scotland is leading the way and is due to launch a DRS on 16 August 2023. Aiming to collect 90% of containers placed on the market by 2024, Scotland’s scheme will charge a 20p deposit on every single-use drinks container between 50ml and 3l, that is made of polyethylene terephthalate plastic (commonly known as PET plastic), steel, aluminum or glass. All retailer and hospitality businesses that sell drinks to takeaway in single-use containers will be required to operate a return point, subject to certain exemptions. Online retailers will be required to operate a takeback system for drinks containers. The English DRS scheme will not include glass but it is expected that the Welsh and Northern Irish schemes will.

Single-use plastic items in England

The ‘25 Year Environment Plan’ sets out the Government’s commitment to eliminate avoidable plastic waste by 2042 and a number of policies and consultations have focused on this commitment. Launched in November 2021, DEFRA’s consultation proposed a new policy of banning single-use plastic items in England. From October 2023 there will be a ban on the use of plastic plates, cutlery, balloon sticks, and expended and extruded polystyrene cups and food and beverage containers. to provide businesses sufficient time to use existing stock and to source alternative products.

The consultation closed in February 2022, alongside a call for evidence which sought to gather evidence on other problematic plastic items such as wet wipes, tobacco filters, sachets and plastic cups. The next step for DEFRA is to confirm the implementation of a ban and the items it will apply to. Businesses who are required to comply with the ban will need to source alternative items in sufficient time to ensure they are complying with the ban and have adequate supplies ready to meet the supply needs of their business.

Action: If your business still uses single-use plastic items you will need to use existing stock and find alternative products before October. Use this as an opportunity to reduce waste by supplying consumers with re-usable items (e.g. metal forks and knives and take them back for washing) rather than simply replacing plastic with cardboard.

Plastic Packaging Tax (PPT)

A new tax on plastic packaging was introduced on 1 April 2022. PPT applies to plastic packaging that is manufactured in, or imported into, the UK, where the proportion of recycled plastic in the “component”, when measured by weight, is less than 30% of the total amount of plastic in the component. The tax is charged at a rate of £200 per metric tonne of chargeable plastic packaging components within a single specification.

Guidance on PPT can be found here

Importantly, a guidance note published in October 2022 provides further information for businesses which may be subject to ‘secondary liability’ or ‘joint and several liability’ for PPT where they are part of the supply chain for plastic packaging components. The guidance confirms the situations where a business may be liable for unpaid PPT due from another business if they knew or should have known PPT has not been paid, as well as outlining that a liability notice may be issued where HMRC believes there is a risk that PPT will not be paid in the future.

Action: carry out due diligence checks across your supply chain and also ensure that PPT has been paid before purchasing packaging from suppliers. Contact Freeths if you need more information or support.

Food Waste

This year (Wales) and 2024/25 (England) will see the introduction of a requirement for all businesses including restaurants and other food outlets not already doing so to separate food waste from general waste and have it collected separately.

Action: Consider how this requirement will affect your business and what changes you will need to make to comply with the new obligations. Contact Freeths if you need more information or support.

For Further information contact Kirstin Roberts 

The content of this page is a summary of the law in force at the present time and is not exhaustive, nor does it contain definitive advice. Specialist legal advice should be sought in relation to any queries that may arise.