UK packaging producers warned of mounting costs from EU fees disparity

The growing trend of European countries implementing differentiated fees based on eco-design and recyclability criteria could result in higher payments for British packaging producers with compliance obligations outside the UK, according to resource efficiency specialist Ecosurety.

Norway and Germany have proposed legislation that would see producers paying more if they place complex packaging onto their local market. France already charges producers more for harder-to-recycle packaging and Italy is looking to trial fee changes next year.

Differentiated fees provide packaging producers with an opportunity to save money through refined practices. But on the other hand, it could force UK producers to pay more for recycling if they do not improve the recyclability of their packaging aimed at European Union (EU) markets, Ecosurety states.

Speaking exclusively to edie, Ecosurety international compliance specialist Fran Witthuhn said: “Any uncertainty is highly disruptive for companies trading, and companies exporting to Europe are rightly asking themselves whether they need to comply and if so how.”

She added: “In the UK, producers pay a contribution towards the recycling industry, in the rest of Europe producers finance the collection and recycling of packaging waste to encourage households to recycle more materials. 

“The landscape is further complicated by the fact that if more and more EU countries adopt differentiated fees, an objective outlined in the EU’s Circular Economy Package, each country could conceivably lay down different packaging design rules, which would add cost and complexity when placing product in individual markets.”

Brexit conundrum

The UK’s decision to leave the EU could impact on costs for UK packaging producers, especially if the country resolves to opt-out of the single market. But while the post-Brexit relationship the UK forges with Europe is currently unknown, commentators can only speculate on what impact this will have on UK companies’ compliance with single market or national laws.

Some producer responsibility regimes and product laws such as the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive require products from third countries (i.e. non-EU countries) to comply with single market harmonising rules when imported and traded in the EEA.

Witthuhn believes the UK “must absolutely” be a part of any discussions on design, material and fiscal parameters if it wants to avoid facing fragmented compliance requirements for exported products post-Brexit.

“The UK may wish to reduce the regulatory burden on companies and Brexit is of course seen as an opportunity to do so,” Witthuhn said. “But it might lead to UK companies wanting to export and trade within Europe to be faced with two different sets of rules for the same product – one for the UK, and one for Europe.  It could mean that the UK in an effort to reduce red tape may actually – inadvertently – increase it.”

The topic will be among those discussed during a one day international compliance seminar in central London organised by Ecosurety on 19 January.

George Ogleby

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