Packaging FAQs

Here is everything you need to know about packaging compliance and the producer responsibility legislation.

The Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging Waste) Regulations came into force in 1997 and here is everything you need to know about packaging compliance and the producer responsibility legislation. The questions below are designed to answer who is obligated by the packaging requirements and how this affects packaging compliance. 

Which businesses are affected by the Packaging Waste Regulations?

All businesses that use/handle packaging or packaging materials will be obligated under the regulations if they pass two thresholds.

-       They must have a turnover of more than £2 million (combined for a group)

-       Handle 50 tonnes of packaging in a calendar year (combined for a group)

If your business is not itself an obligated producer you may still receive requests from your customers to provide packaging weights. Whilst you are not legally obligated to do this, it is common practice to do this.

What does handling packaging mean?

Packaging is all products made of any materials of any nature used for the containment, protection, handling, delivery and presentation of goods, from raw material to processed goods, from the producer to the user to the consumer, including non-returnable items.


Activities considered handling packaging include:

  •          Producing raw materials for packaging manufacture (raw material manufacturer)
  •          Converting raw materials into packaging (converter)
  •          Packing/Filling packaging, i.e. putting goods into packaging or packaging around goods (packer/filler)
  •          Supplying packaged goods to the end user, where they would remove the packaging (seller)
  •          Performing a service provision, i.e. supplying packaging by hiring out or lending (service provider)
  •          Importing packaging/packaging materials /packaged goods into the UK (importer)

What do I need to do if I am a packaging producer?

As an obligated producer you must:

- Register with a Producer Compliance Scheme (PCS) or the Environment Agency directly

- Submit the required data to the PCS or Environment Agency

- Fund the recycling and recovery of specific tonnes of materials through the purchase of Packaging Recovery Notes (PRNs), determined by the data submitted and the UK recycling rates. 

The number of P(E)RNs is dependent upon the amount of packaging handled by a business or group of businesses, as well as what activities are performed on that packaging/packaging materials. Each activity has a percentage associated with it, resulting in any one item of packaging having its obligation to be recycled shared across the businesses which performed an activity on the packaging.

What is a PRN?

Packaging Recovery Note (PRN) or Packaging Export Recovery Note (PERN) is the most common form of evidence of recycling and/or recovery. A material reprocessor who has been accredited by the EA sells the PRN to the producer (or its compliance scheme), as proof that this tonnage of recycling has been performed. The cost of a P(E)RN is not fixed and can rise or fall depending upon the perceived supply and demand of material P(E)RN, as well as other factors (general recycling trends or percentage recycling targets, specific material recycling issues etc.).  

If I recycle my own waste material, am I already meeting the requirements of the legislation?

No, packaging waste legislation is specifically aimed at the recycling of packaging material which has been handled, not necessarily discarded by a business. The recycling of production residues, even if they are cardboard, plastic, glass or other material that can be used for packaging purposes, cannot be used to meet the requirements of the legislation. In all cases, the recycling of the material is only one aspect of the legislation. You still have to register with the EA and supply evidence of recycling through the purchase of P(E)RNs

Are there any obligations on imports or exports?

Where packaging or packaging material is imported, the Importer has the “Rolled-up” obligation on all the activities carried out outside the UK. Therefore, if the importer imports packaging to pack/fill they are also obligated for the manufacturing and conversion obligations, ensuring that 100% of the recycling obligation of any packaging is met. If a company exports goods outside the UK, it has no obligation on that packaging, as it will not be discarded within the UK. However, if a business is obligated under the packaging waste regulations then the exported packaging still needs to be declared, regardless of whether there is a recycling obligation or cost associated with it. 

What are the consequences of not complying with the packaging regulations?

Fulfilling the criteria and thus being an obligated producer under the Regulations means that your business or group of companies MUST register with the appropriate Agency in the relevant compliance year. Failure to do so is an offence and the company can be prosecuted by the appropriate Agency. Many businesses have already been successfully prosecuted for non-compliance. The highest fines to date have been surplus of £250k.

What is delegated authority?

The packaging regulations state that packaging data submitted to the Environment Agency must have been signed off by a legal Director as listed on Companies House. There is a provision in the regulations for this legal authority to be delegated to someone else within the company. This can be done in four easy steps:

  1. Download the Delegated Authority form using the following link (/media/2001/ea-delegation-of-authority-form-2018.pdf).
  2. Complete the form (this requires the signature of a legal Director) and email it to
  3. Copy in
  4. The Environment Agency will consider the request and either accept the delegation or reject it

The Environment Agency want to see that the person the authority is being delegated to has the relevant level of knowledge and access to the right data to make the submissions, so it is useful to include reference to that to avoid the form being rejected. The authority stays in place until either the Director is no longer a legal Director or the employee leaves. If you need any assistance please contact your Account Manager.

What should I do if my packaging question has not been answered here?

Please contact our expert packaging team at Comply Direct on 0844 873 1034 or by email to and we will be only too happy to help with your query.

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Find out if you are obligated by the Packaging Regulations.