Yesterday the Environment Agency released a COVID-19 regulatory position statement (RPS) relating to the key requirements for obligated packaging producers.
Obligated packaging producers (those handling more than 50 tonnes of packaging a year with an annual turnover above £2m) are required by law to annually meet a key deadline of 7 April, when they must register with the Environment Agency, directly or through a compliance scheme, and provide complete and accurate information with the regulation.
Failure to meet this deadline, or providing inaccurate or false information, would usually result in enforcement action being taken and additional fees for late registration and resubmission being charged.
Help for impacted producers
The newly announced COVID-19 RPS will apply to obligated packaging producers impacted by COVID-19 who have been unable to either register with the Environment Agency or provide accurate and complete information with the application by 7 April.
No enforcement action or charge of an additional fee will be taken against an obligated packaging producer when they have been unable to register, or have registered but have been unable to provide accurate or complete information.
Importantly, this condition is only valid if it was not reasonably practicable to register as an obligated packaging producer, or provide the required information, due to COVID-19 and the measures government has introduced, which included social distancing measures and the option for companies to furlough employees.
All other legal requirements, such as the obligation to purchase evidence of recycling, or PRNs, remains in place.
Conditions of the revised deadline
The Environment Agency has clearly stated in the COVID-19 RPS that producers who could not register by 7 April must do so, directly or through a compliance scheme, by 7 July 2020.
The producer must also fully document how the impacts of COVID-19 affected their ability to register by 7 April 2020, including the measures taken in response. The Environment Agency require these documents to be kept for 12 months and they must be made available on request.
Regarding information submitted, affected producers must:
- have taken appropriate measures to provide information that is as accurate and complete as possible
- supply the correct and complete information as soon as reasonably practicable, and in any event by 7 July 2020
- document the reasons why the information you provided was inaccurate or incomplete (or both)
- keep these documents for 12 months and make them available to the Environment Agency on request
Operational and administrative challenges
So long as a producer complies with the limitations and conditions set out in the COVID-19 RPS, and their activity meets the description detailed within it, the Environment Agency will not normally take enforcement action.
The COVID-19 RPS will be withdrawn on 8 July 2020, unless it is extended further, meaning the existing rules will once again apply.
Jon Brookes, head of partnerships, commented “We are pleased that the Environment Agency has formally recognised the operational and administrative challenges that many businesses and obligated packaging producers are facing at this extraordinary time, due to the restrictions and impacts arising from COVID-19 preventing registration taking place by 7 April."
"Ecosurety is continuing to work closely with affected producers to relay their challenges and concerns to the Environment Agency, and welcome the opportunity to assist them in registering prior to 7 July and ensuring that the UK has a more accurate picture of its packaging recycling obligations.”
Here to help
If you are a packaging producer impacted by the COVID-19 crisis and have questions regarding the COVID-19 RPS, please contact our team or your account manager directly.
Marketing projects specialist
Ben joined the team at the beginning of 2015 and helps drive marketing communications and projects for Ecosurety, including project managing the launch of the Ecosurety Exploration Fund and website content development.