Twix plastic pollution

Source: Amy Scaife / Greenpeace

Large companies were required to have submitted their data for EPR as from October 2023

Thousands of companies are facing enforcement action for failing to submit packaging data to the government’s under-fire extended producer responsibility scheme, The Grocer can reveal.

At a briefing with producers last week, Defra bosses admitted out of nearly 6,000 large producers that had enrolled on its reporting packaging data (RPD) portal since it launched in August last year, less than 2,500 (approximately 40%) had submitted their packaging data.

Large companies were required to have submitted their data for EPR as from October 2023, but in September the government announced the Environment Agency would not take enforcement action providing data was submitted before 31 May this year.

However, experts warned that with the deadline now looming, even a late rush of submissions would leave a huge number of companies in breach of the regulations.

There have been calls for tough penalties for companies that have wilfully ignored the new regulations, alongside calls for Defra to do a better job of communicating the changes.

It is the latest crisis to hit the government’s embattled scheme, which will pass the costs of recycling on to producers.

Industry leaders and compliance schemes had previously warned companies were facing administrative chaos due to the introduction of the reporting requirements, alongside their existing PRN reporting workload, despite the launch of producer fees for EPR having been postponed until at least the end of 2025.

“It is clear that with the deadline for reporting due to elapse soon, some producers are still oblivious to the new requirements,” said one source. “Or are perhaps waiting until the last minute to register and submit data.

“The risk is that those that are registered and are submitting data will essentially be footing the local authority waste management fee bill for those that don’t.”

Another source added: “A very large number of producers aren’t even aware of their obligations because Defra hasn’t t done a great job of making them aware and the rules aren’t very clear.” 

An FDF spokesperson said: “Businesses understand the importance of complying with these regulations and many larger companies are already doing so.

“However, the figures released so far suggest a significant number of producers are unaware of the regulations and their responsibilities to comply. It is therefore important that Defra and the devolved governments act urgently to ensure all obligated producers are aware of what they need to do to comply.”

Kate Loosmore, head of compliance services at Reconomy brand Valpak, said: “It’s clear that many packaging producers are struggling to engage with EPR reporting.

“It seems that there are a lot of producers who aren’t sure if they need to report data, what data is needed to be reported, and by when.”

Loosmore said the company had received nearly 20,000 calls to its contact centre from producers unsure over the rules.

“The industry can’t afford to have this few producers able to engage when it comes to 2024 reporting,” she added.

“Currently we are seeing fewer than half of enrolled producers submitting data on RPD, and this is an even smaller proportion of the producers expected to be obligated.

“This could mean reduced funding for UK recycling, which would impact the recycling rates in the UK, and could cause volatility in PRN prices.

“There needs to be repercussions for any producers who are wilfully not engaging with EPR, whilst the regulators need to take a pragmatic approach where a producer is trying their best. As a system that will be costly for producers if they do engage, it needs to have costs of greater equal significance for those that choose not to.”

Meanwhile, Defra has also revealed that labelling requirements for EPR, due to have come into force in 2026, will now be delayed until April 2027.

The move was welcomed by industry bodies, who have warned the labelling task facing companies is another major logistics exercise, with no exemptions, unlike with fees, for smaller companies.

Defra has also confirmed that OPRL’s ‘Recycle’ label is already compliant with the new rules that will come into force.