The Department of the Environment has suddenly stepped in to prevent wholesalers saving about £25m in packaging waste costs, following a presentation at the annual FWD conference on Tuesday. In an unexpected move, DETR has attempted to reverse an Environment Agency interpretation of the regulations which promised a substantial reduction in costs to wholesalers. It is now believed that another long running legal wrangle arising from DETR intervention could delay potential packaging waste cost savings for wholesalers. The drama began on Tuesday when Steve Oliver of KPMG said Booker alone had paid over £1m under the packaging waste regulations in the first year after implementation. Booker, advised by KPMG, had agreed the firm could bring its new thinking to the conference to alert other wholesalers they could be on the brink of a reduction in their costs. The development centred on the issue of who bears responsibility for outer packaging. Current interpretation of the law makes wholesalers as distributors responsible for the outers while superstores do not bear the same cost. FWD has argued since 1997 that this was unfair and imposed costs down the line on independent retailers while the supermarket giants got off scott-free. Oliver told delegates: "The Environment Agency has agreed that wholesalers do not have to pay for outer packaging. This new interpretation will result in a drastic reduction in costs to wholesalers serving retailers. Some wholesalers will not fall into the packaging waste net at all." As The Grocer went to press the DETR intervened in an attempt to reverse this decision. FWD director general Alan Toft said he was awaiting developments. {{NEWS }}