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EPR reporting – what packaging data does the new scheme require?

Matt Dobson: Last Updated 16th February 2024
Posted In: Environment | Guides and Advice xx 31179

New reporting requirements

Data submissions as part of your EPR reporting

If your business is affected by the upcoming Extended Producer Responsibilities (EPR) scheme, then it is vital that you understand your EPR reporting obligations.

EPR reporting requires data on packaging base material, packaging type, and expected end-of-life waste stream. Large organisations must submit data bi-annually, whilst smaller organisations only once every 12 months. The additional data enables modulated fees to cover the cost of household packaging recycling. Packaging used in 2023 is the first subject to the new reporting format.

This guide provides the current known, and expected requirements for your EPR data submissions. This information is, however, subject to change as the full details of the Extended Producer Responsibilities are confirmed.



Changes to existing waste regulations

There has been considerable confusion regarding the introduction of the new Extended Producer Responsibilities for packaging. And even though the government and Defra (the body running the scheme) have yet to confirm some details, much information is now available.

As a starting point, it is essential to determine precisely what is changing with the EPR and the elements remaining in place from the existing Packaging Waste regulations.

Man in an office looking at reports
If you currently submit data under the existing Packaging Waste Regulations, your reporting obligation is changing.

What is affected by the new EPR legislation?

Firstly, it is important to note that most of your responsibilities under the packaging waste regulations remain the same.

Regardless of the packaging your business produces or uses, you are still required to cover the cost of recycling. Your business does this by purchasing Packaging Recovery Notes (PRNs). This system will likely remain in place for at least five years.

However, the Extended Producer Responsibilities introduce additional costs to businesses for packaging deemed either household or shipment. The new fees cover packaging resulting in household waste and kerbside recycling streams.

The new scheme currently excludes industrial and commercial transit packaging, but the longer-term approach is still under consideration.

Reporting changes

The other significant change the scheme introduces is increased EPR reporting.

A considerable amount of detail is yet to be confirmed. Whilst this includes the forms that businesses are to complete, there will definitely be an increased amount of data that you must report.

This additional data collection and reporting aims to allow the introduction of modulated fees. These adjusted fees commence in 2024 (payable in 2025) and reward businesses that use more environmentally friendly packaging (or that which is easier to recycle). Packaging that is difficult or impossible to recycle is subject to higher charges per tonne of material used.

EPR Information categories

What categories of information must you report?

The Extended Producer responsibilities require your business to provide enhanced data in three main areas.

These are:

  • The base material of which your packaging consists.
  • The packaging “type” – effectively the application for which you use it.
  • The waste type that the packaging generates.

Base material reporting

What materials are used in the manufacture of your packaging?

The base material is that which forms your packaging. With a few changes, the categories to report for EPR are virtually the same as those from the existing packaging waste regulations.

As such, the Extended Producer Responsibilities require your business to report on the weight of the following materials if used in your packaging:

  • Aluminium
  • Glass
  • Paper/card
  • Plastic
  • Steel
  • Wood
  • Fibre composite
  • Other

These categories apply to packaging placed on the market from January 2023.

Fibre composite packaging

The notable difference from the existing regulations is the addition of fibre composite packaging.

The Defra definition of this form of packaging is:

For any composite packaging where the primary material is paperboard or paper fibres, and that material is laminated with plastic, you should class this as a “fibre-based composite”.

This definition covers packaging such as laminated papers, tetra pack style cartons (used for liquids such as juices, milk, and other drinks), coffee cups, and other similar packaging.

For composite packaging comprising two or more materials without paper fibres, you should report these materials by whichever element weighs the most.

Paper based coffee cups
Fibre composite packaging - such as coffee cups and juice cartons - have their own material category in new EPR reports.

Other category

Whilst the existing waste regulations include an “other” category, businesses are now responsible for separating the materials within this category and reporting on them individually.

This category includes items such as:

  • Biodegradable plastics and compostable plastics (including plant-based)
  • Cork
  • Cotton
  • Flax based products
  • Nitrile
  • Rubber
  • Silicone

Your business should record and report on the weights of each item under the new system.

Packaging type

Applications for which packaging is used

The second area where you must provide data is the “packaging type”.

The government define four types within this, which are:

  • Primary packaging – any packaging that is in direct contact with your product (also known as a consumer unit).
  • Secondary packaging that houses or displays multiple individual units (e.g. an SRP tray).
  • Tertiary packaging that transports multiple items (e.g. pallets, shipping containers).
  • eCommerce or shipping packaging delivered directly to consumers (e.g. boxes, jiffy bags, poly mailers etc.)

Primary packaging

The Defra definition for primary packaging is:

Primary packaging is the individual container you store goods in to sell to consumers. This includes multipack packaging. This is called a ‘sales unit’.

Primary packaging is effectively (almost) any packaging that will end up in household waste streams. It includes items such as tins, bottles and boxes. It also includes any packaging that may group the items the consumer takes when purchasing them.

For example, in a multipack of four cans held together by a card sleeve, both cans and sleeves are deemed primary packaging.

This type of packaging is subject to EPR fees. The revenue generated is to cover the cost of recovery and recycling of household packaging (i.e. kerbside collections).

A shopper looking at product packaging
Primary packaging is defined as that which is in direct contact with consumer goods, and ends up in household waste streams.

Shipment or eCommerce packaging

Not considered in the existing Packaging Waste regulations, you must now report on any specific shipment and eCommerce packaging your business uses.

The Defra definition of this type of packaging is:

Packaging added in addition to primary packaging on items sold online or by mail order which are either delivered directly to the purchaser or collected by the purchaser from a shop or other collection point after they have been purchased.

This definition covers a range of products, including envelopes, jiffy bags, eCommerce boxes, and book wraps.

This type of packaging is also subject to fees under EPR as it typically enters household waste streams.

eCommerce shipment packaging
eCommerce or shipment packaging used to send goods to consumers is within the scope of the EPR legislation.

Secondary packaging

Secondary packaging does not fall within the scope of the EPR. This categorisation means you do not incur charges if you supply, handle or use this form of packaging., You must, however, still report this as part of your data requirements, and purchase PRNs as previously.

The Defra definition of secondary packaging is:

Secondary packaging groups several ‘sales units’ for selling or shipping purposes. Organisations may also use secondary packaging to display goods in shops.

Secondary packaging includes point-of-sale trays, and shelf-ready packaging (SRPs) used to house multiple items in retail spaces.

A consumer reaching for products in a supermarket
Secondary packaging is used for grouping primary packaging for display or handling purposes.

Tertiary packaging (transit)

Finally, the definition of tertiary or transit packaging is as follows:

Transit or tertiary packaging is used to group secondary packaging units to protect them while being transported or handled through the supply chain.

Examples of tertiary packaging include pallets, pallet wrap, corner protectors, banding, and any outer packaging containers such as corrugated packaging.

It does not include road, rail, ship and air containers.

Tertiary packaging does not qualify for fees as part of the EPR scheme. But you must still report your usage and purchase sufficient PRNs to cover your recycling obligations.

Other exclusions

The new EPR scheme will likely carry over some other assumptions and definitions from the existing packaging waste regulations.

Most significantly, it does not deem items used for long-term storage as packaging. Examples include the outer boxes containing board games or puzzles, DVD cases or computer software boxes, and plastic containers used as tool boxes.

Waste type

Which waste or recovery stream does packaging enter?

The expected waste type generated is the final data category your business must now include in EPR reporting. This information is where the distinction between household packaging that is subject to EPR, and other packaging that is not, is defined.

The categories in this section of your report are as follows:

  • Household waste.
  • Street bin packaging.
  • Drinks containers.
  • Plastic bags.
  • Reusable packaging.
  • Self-managed waste.

Household waste

The new EPR scheme clearly distinguishes between household and non-household waste. The existing regulations and purchasing of PRNS still apply to all packaging produced. But if you generate Household packaging, EPR charges also apply to your packaging.

All primary and eCommerce/shipment packaging is classed as household by default.

However, some packaging that may appear to be household may be supplied exclusively to business users. This packaging enters business waste streams. To avoid EPR fees for this packaging, you must prove it is non-household. Effectively, Defra automatically classifies any primary packaging as household unless you have evidence to the contrary.

The evidence requirements are still in draft at the time of writing.

However, the expected categories of evidence you can use to highlight where your packaging is not household are:

  • Product specification. The specification may indicate that the product within the packaging is obviously not a household product used solely by businesses.
  • Commercial arrangements. Contract terms may indicate clauses such as products being prohibited from onward distribution by businesses. Such contracts can be used as evidence to show that a product is not for household or consumer use.
  • Customer declarations. If your customers can provide a statement that they are putting any packaging you supply into business waste streams, your packaging is exempt from EPR charges.
A plastic bottle being recycled
Household waste that is part of kerbside collections, will attract fees under the EPR scheme.

Street bin packaging

The Extended Producer Responsibilities legislation deems street bin packaging as a subset of household packaging. This category includes the packaging most likely to end up in public bins.

Items classified as such includes:

  • Takeaway food and drink packaging.
  • Confectionary packaging (pack sizes under 230g).
  • Savoury snack packaging (under 60g).
  • Single-portion ready-to-eat foods.
  • Drink cartons (under 850ml).
  • Pouches (under 600ml).
  • Packaging related to cigarettes and smoking products.

These types of packaging will attract additional modulated fees to cover the costs of recovery by local authorities.

An overflowing waste bin
You must report data on packaging that is likely to end up in public/street bins.

Drinks containers

All single-use containers for drinks face additional EPR fees, at least initially.

Scotland is introducing a deposit return scheme (DRS) from August 2023. Bottles and drinks packaging will be exempt from EPR and the requirement to purchase PRNs as per existing waste regulations.

However, all primary packaging for selling drinks sold in England, Wales and Northern Ireland remains subject to the new fees until the introduction of any DRS schemes.

For now, this category includes reporting requirements for:

  • Single-use containers between 50ml and 3 litres.
  • Use of PET, glass, steel or aluminium for the packaging.
A plastic bottle being crushed
Reporting on drinks containers and bottles is required, at least until deposit return schemes are introduced.

Plastic bags

Whilst bags used for “point of sale” packaging are likely to be included, there are still some question marks regarding other forms of bags.

For example, Defra needs to provide information on reporting requirements for carrier bags in specific thicknesses, small produce sacks and paper bags.

Reusable packaging

Whilst reusable packaging is not subject to EPR fees, your business must still report on its use where appropriate.

However, due to the reusable nature of these products, you should only declare them the first time you place them on the market.

This category effectively covers returnable packaging such as tote boxes, euro containers, pallets, crates, etc.

EPR fees do not apply, but existing requirements for purchasing PRNs remain.

Self-managed waste

The final reporting category is for what is termed “self-managed waste”.

This section covers applications or schemes where your business collects packaging that current kerbside collections do not accept.

It is important to note that this does not cover any waste generated during your business processes but rather household waste that would otherwise be subject to EPR.

EPR reporting frequency

When do you need to submit packaging data?

Depending on the size and activity of your business, there may be changes to the frequency with which you must report your packaging data under the new scheme.

Regardless, EPR expects you to report on all 2023 data using the new format.

Large producers

One of the most significant changes for large organisations is the move from annual to bi-annual reporting.

The new six monthly reports replace the existing annual returns that have been in place for 25 years since the launch of the Packaging Waste Regulations.

If you qualify for six monthly reporting, this arguably doubles your workload. You must compile the data sets twice yearly instead of once, although admittedly, with half of the previous data.

For large organisations, your first submission date is July 2023 to cover the six months from January.

You are required to submit data for both household packaging and non-household packaging at the same time. You declare both types of packaging on the same form/document. This data generates both your PRN obligation and any EPR obligation.

Any EPR charges for which you are liable apply in addition to any PRNs you are responsible for purchasing.

Small producers

Small producers – between £1 and 2 million turnover and 25 tonnes of packaging generated – are exempt from EPR fees. However, if the scheme defines you as a small business, you are expected to submit usage data.

Unlike large organisations, you produce one report per year. From April 2024, you will need to make an annual declaration. Your responsibilities extend only to this simple data disclosure.

Legal entities and subsidiaries

It is important to note another change here regarding data submissions.

The EPR requires all legal entities to provide a separate disclosure. UK groups of companies can be registered together. But each individual subsidiary within the group (i.e. each legal entity) must complete and submit its own data/report.

Nation data

In which nation is your packaging disposed of?

Another necessary EPR reporting requirement is the introduction of “nation data”.

If you supply packaging to end consumers or business end consumers, Defra needs to know how much of the packaging you have provided is disposed of in each of the four devolved nations.

No specific fees are attached to this data, being an additional information disclosure only.

This reporting is to be introduced from the end of 2024 based on your 2023 calendar year volumes, meaning you should begin gathering data on this now.

A map of Europe with pins stuck in it
The new EPR legislation requires you to report which of the four UK nations your packaging is discarded in.


Do you send packaging outside of the UK?

It is also crucial to note that the Extended Producer Responsibilities only cover packaging you supply within the UK.

Any packaging/products you export are exempt from any fees. You do not need to include them in your data reporting either. This approach is in contrast to the current regulations, where there is a requirement for you to record and disclose this information.

Shipping containers on a large boat
Any packaging your business exports does not need to be included on your EPR data declarations,

Data forms

Method for submitting your information

Despite all of the above, much information still needs to be confirmed. Further clarification includes how the data submissions will look.

Once finalised, data forms to complete will be made available by DEFRA (or the relevant environment agencies). The exact layout and fields in the forms are yet to be confirmed.

One point to note is that most expect the “accurate as reasonably possible” guidance from the current regulations to remain in place.


Your EPR reporting obligations

Although some of the information in this guide is subject to change, your business must begin recording and collecting your data immediately.

Considering the likely changes required in reporting now should make your life easier when the new data submissions are introduced (from July for larger businesses and January 2024 for smaller ones).

Should you still have questions regarding your obligations under the new scheme, this beginner’s guide to the Extended Producer Responsibilities is also relevant.

And if you are a customer of GWP, get in touch with your account manager for any help you may require with your EPR reporting.

Important notice

GWP believe this information is correct at the time of publication. The content of this article is also subject to change as the legislation is updated.

Please also note that the information provided is intended as a guide only. GWP can accept no responsibility or liability for loss, damage, or any other consequence of reliance on this information, howsoever caused. As all applications and scenarios vary, it is your responsibility or the responsibility of your business to ensure that you pay tax if and where applicable. If in any doubt, please check with your tax advisor.

Further reading

About the Author

Matt Dobson, GWP Group Marketing Manager

Matt Dobson

Marketing Manager | GWP Group

Matt has worked in the packaging industry for approximately ten years, joining GWP Group as Marketing Executive in 2012. [Read full bio]

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