As part of its packaging producer responsibility monitoring plan, the Environment Agency intends to carry out more than 100 site inspections
The UK’s Environment Agency (EA) has outlined how it intends to tackle packaging firms whose practices do not comply with its waste management producer responsibility regulations.
What are UK waste producer responsibility laws?
In Britain, if a business or organisation produces, uses or sells packaging, it could be obligated to reduce the amount of waste it sends to landfill and increase its recycling and recovery rates.
In order to comply with these laws, companies must either be a part of or have an approved packaging producer compliance scheme (PCS) that tackles this problem.
As part of its monitoring plan for 2020, the EA will continue identifying non-compliant manufacturers and intends to fund a producer responsibility investigations team to look into serious and significant cases of non-compliance.
These businesses – known as freeriders – will be investigated if they’re reported, with the organisation prepared to use “enforcement powers and tools” where necessary.
The EA also plans to carry out 160 inspections of registered packaging production, reprocessing and exportation sites that have been identified as “high risk” when it comes to meeting their recycling and recovery goals.
Alongside this, it intends to visit every site that generates more than 400 tonnes of packaging waste at least once over the course of this year.
As part of its planned activities, the EA will contact reported freeriders to increase producer registrations and contact manufacturers that fail to re-register to a compliance scheme.
Extended producer responsibility will only work if the enforcement agency ‘has teeth’, says a DS Smith boss
UK-based packaging company DS Smith has welcomed the move from the EA to improve enforcement of its packaging regulations.
The company’s head of government and community affairs, Peter Clayson, said: “At a time when the UK government is planning extended producer responsibility for packaging, it is crucial that obligated producers, who are set to pay considerably increased fees, have confidence in the system.
“It only works if producers pay their fees, and without teeth and a duly-empowered enforcement agency, the ambitious, necessary proposals around EPR could at best be impossible to monitor accurately and at worst incentivise fraudulent activity given the increased burden on obligated companies.
“With this in mind, we welcome the EA’s ‘crackdown’ to enforce the current packaging regulations, particularly if it results in appropriate enforcement so that no ‘free-riders’ get their packaging recycled without paying into the system.”
Pet food firm makes charity donation after failing to pay for its recycling costs
The EA’s regulation process requires approved producer compliance schemes to re-register every year.
This allows the regulator to conduct a detailed assessment to make sure all these organisations are up to date with the current standards.
The EA also checks all the schemes every three months to make sure their members are meeting their obligations.
Alongside this, it investigates procurement patterns for certain commitments such as packaging recovery notes (PRNs) – a document which provides evidence that waste packaging has been recycled into a new product.
Firms that either fail to register or don’t recover a proportion of their waste by purchasing PRNs are handed a financial enforcement undertaking by the EA, where a business has to pay money to charities for failing meet its obligations.
Earlier this week, Nottingham-based pet food manufacturer Kennelpak was handed an enforcement undertaking fine of more than £75,000 ($98,000) after it failed to comply with registration regulations between 2001 and 2016.
Its obligations came as the company had a turnover of more than £2m ($2.6m) and was handling 50 tonnes of packaging waste, which required to be part of a PCS.
According to the Nottingham Post, Kennelpak said it was unaware of this at the time.
EA environment officer Joanne Weston said: “Enforcement undertakings allow packaging waste producers to come into compliance and contribute towards environmental projects and improvements using the money they have saved.
“The EA is increasingly using this method of enforcement for cases of less serious offending to restore or enhance the environment, improve practices of the offending business and ensure future compliance with environmental requirements.
“However, we will continue to pursue prosecution for the most serious cases.”
The fine was split between environmental charities the Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust and the Erewash Canal Preservation & Development Association.