Twix plastic pollution

Source: Amy Scaife / Greenpeace

All large producers are required to start reporting their packaging data

Food and drink companies face an “administrative nightmare” from the launch of the government’s flagship environmental reforms, despite the date for the estimated £1.7bn in fees due to be paid into the system having been shelved until at least the end of 2025.

All large producers and compliance schemes working on behalf of companies are required to start reporting their packaging data to regulators across England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, by October, ahead of the introduction of extended producer responsibility. (EPR).

Defra launched a new Report Packaging Data (RPD) service this week, with large companies able to submit their data from Wednesday onwards.

It has also launched a consultation with industry into the “clarity and operability” of the scheme.

The department, which has been running crisis talks with industry since November to try to sort out mass confusion over EPR, also this week unveiled a new helpdesk this week to answer EPR enquiries. Experts warned it faced being jammed with companies still in the dark about how the scheme would operate.

Irvin Newbitt, CEO of compliance group Ecoveritas, told The Grocer this week’s “soft launch” meant companies were already being faced with a wall of red tape, despite EPR being more than two years away from coming into force.

“Whilst the fees have been delayed, the data collection requirements are still currently set to come into force as planned, alongside – not instead of – the existing PRN data requirements,” he said. “If that sounds like a muddle, that’s because it is.

“The dual reporting system that will run through 2024 means the food and drink industry will have unanswered questions about how PRN payments in 2024 will work, whether we will have to report under the old packaging waste rules, and whether PRN obligations will be based on that.

“Essentially, after five years, two rounds of formal consultation, and untold hours spent in preparation, no one has put the necessary measures in place to make the good intentions behind this scheme viable at scale.”

The FDF, which has called for the government to provide a far more detailed roadmap and communication plan to back EPR, said it still had huge numbers of unanswered questions despite Defra’s attempt to galvanise the beleaguered scheme.

“Any move by Defra to make it easier for business to comply with the EPR data regulations is welcomed,” said a spokeswoman.

“However, we still need clarity on the actual scheme, and look forward to working with them during this period of delay to design something that works for businesses, consumers and the environment.”