Our disposable culture is wreaking havoc on the planet and as a number of recent documentaries have shown, packaging waste has become a serious global environmental problem. A number of packaging firms already focus sustainability and their environmental impact, but progress has not sufficiently rapid within the industry and in response the government has introduced new legislation to make sure that all packaging producers take responsibility for their impact on the planet and to drive changes in design and consideration of its end-of-life treatment.
New EPR legislation
Under new extended producer responsibility (EPR) rules, businesses handling packaging in the UK have had to start collecting data about the packaging they handle and supply from 1 January this year. This data is required to calculate the EPR fees that producers will pay to their local authorities via a Scheme Administrator once the scheme comes into force in January 2024.
The aim of the new legislation is to ensure that producers of packaging take responsibility for the environmental impact of the packaging they supply to companies. To do this, they will be required to pay for the cost of collection and disposal of the packaging when it becomes waste. It is hoped that this will provide a financial incentive for companies to reduce the amount of packaging they supply and improve the recyclability of the packaging they produce.
Producers to pay for impact of packaging
Under the new regulations, producers with an annual turnover of £2 million and who handle more than 50 tons of packaging each year will be required to report data on the amount and type of packaging they supply. The frequency of this reporting will increase from once per year to twice per year. Meanwhile, companies that have an annual turnover of £1 million and handle more than 25 tons of packaging per year will be required to collect the data, but not report it.
Consumers support greener companies
Many consumers already seek out companies who are more responsible and conscious about the environment and choose to buy such products despite them often being more expensive than their competitors. Companies that move towards sustainable and eco-friendly packaging first and utilise packaging that emphasises the importance of recycled materials and conveys their mission to become more green and sustainable may will find that consumers support the changes. All companies will eventually bear the same additional expenses, and so first mover advantage is key to getting the consumer recognition for the change.
The future is sustainable
Packaging that can be reused, recycled, or composted is generally considered to be sustainable, although there is no agreed-upon definition. Sustainable packaging includes items such as printed boxes, paper mailers, tissue and butcher paper, boxes sealed with paper tape, and compostable bags, all of which can either be simply recycled or composted, and so should not end up in landfill. Most companies should be able to shift to more sustainable alternatives with relative ease already, but for items that are perishable or currently require less environmentally-friendly packaging, the hope is the new legislation drives innovation in the sector and creates alternatives that are better for the planet in the not-to-distant future.