Please see below for our frequently asked questions:

Who needs to comply with the regulations?

Any company that has an annual turnover of more than £2m AND handles more than 50 tonnes of packaging per year.

What or who is a producer?

A producer is anyone (usually a business or company) who:

  • Performs an activity on the packaging.
  • Provides new materials for packaging or supplies packaging, which he owns, to another stage in the chain (where another activity is performed) or to the final user of the packaging.

What are the obligations placed upon a company?

The three main obligations are:

i. Registration
A company is required to register with the Environment Agency (EA), either directly or through a compliance scheme such as Acu-Pak. The company must pay a fee to the EA, and submit to the Environment Agency or compliance scheme packaging data for the obligated year.

ii. Recovery and Recycling
A company is required to take reasonable steps to recover and recycle specific tonnages of packaging waste calculated on 3 factors:

  • a) The tonnage of packaging handled in the obligated year
  • b) The “activities” that the producer performs and the “percentage obligation” attached to each activity
  • c) The national recovery and recycling targets

iii. Certifying
A producer must certify to the EA by 31 January following the obligated year that it has recovered and recycled the necessary tonnage of packaging waste.

If you join a compliance scheme all the above obligations are taken on by the scheme.

How do I know what constitutes packaging?

Packaging is defined as being: “All products, made of any material of any nature, to be used for the containment, protection, handling, delivery and presentation of goods from raw material to processed goods from the producer to the user or the consumer, including non-returnable items”.

What is meant by “activities” and what percentage of packaging has to be recovered/recycled under each activity?

The activities referred to in the legislation are:

  • Manufacturing packaging raw material 6%.
  • Converting packaging raw materials into packages 9%.
  • Packing/Filling of packages with products 37%.
  • Selling of the full packages to the final user 48%.

A company may fall into more than one of the above categories, and therefore will have to account for the relevant percentages on each of the activities.

The percentage for each activity given above is correct at January 2008, but is subject to review by the EA for subsequent years.

Does a company with several subsidiaries, none of which are individually obligated, still have obligations under the legislation?

The requirements for groups of companies are very specific. If a group has several subsidiaries, each of which does not have at least £2m turnover and 50 tonnes of packaging on its own, the group still has to register if the total turnover and packaging of the group exceeds these amounts.

Can a group register?

A group of companies may register as a group, individually for each subsidiary, or register some of the subsidiaries together, as long as they include the holding company of the group, and some separate.

What is a PRN?

A Packaging Recovery Note (PRN) is the most common form of evidence of recycling and/or recovery. A material reprocessor who has been accredited by the EA sells the PRN to the producer (or its compliance scheme) for the necessary tonnage of packaging. The cost of the PRN is market driven, and can rise or fall depending upon the availability of the recycled commodity (plastic, steel, etc.) to which it refers.

Do I have to recycle or recover the specific packaging that I sent to my customer?

No! The reprocessor will recycle the equivalent amount and type of material, and supplies the PRN as evidence that this has been done.

I recycle my waste material, so am I already meeting the requirements of the legislation?

No. The legislation is specifically aimed at the recycling of packaging material. The recycling of production residues, even if they are cardboard, plastic, glass or other material that can be used for packaging purposes, cannot be used to meet the requirements of the legislation. In all cases, the recycling of the material is only one aspect of the legislation. You still have to register with the EA and supply evidence of recycling through the purchase of PRNs
Acu-Pak offers a complete recycling service through Trees are Green (see If you are a member of Acu-Pak and join the Waste Directive Services through Trees are Green the financial cost of PRN’s may be offset against recycled materials

Are there any obligations on imports or exports?

Imports: Where packaging or packaging material is imported, the Importer has the “Rolled-up” obligation on all the activities carried out outside the UK. Therefore, if the importer imports packaging to pack/fill they are also obligated for the manufacturing and converting obligations.

Exports: If a company exports goods outside the UK, it has no obligation on that packaging, as it will not be discarded within the UK

What will happen if I don’t register with the EA or a compliance scheme?

The EA has access to all companies currently registered directly or with a compliance scheme. They monitor registrations and if a company is not on the list the EA may carry out an audit to determine whether the company has an obligation, and if so, why they have not registered.

If the EA conclude that a company has failed to discharge its obligations under the legislation, it can set a fine for each year that the company failed to comply with the legislation.

Typical fines are between £4,000 and £20,000, although the largest fine so far imposed in England and Wales is well over £250,000.