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Understanding packaging waste complexities

Understanding packaging waste complexities
by Michelle Carvell at 09:42 in Battery, Environmental, Packaging, WEEE

The EU's focus on resource preservation and reuse has put manufacturers under increasing pressure over the past two decades to meet strict legislative requirements on environmental reporting. However, the compliance process can be a tricky path to navigate – especially when reporting requirements differ in each country.

Manufacturers across Europe have been under the spotlight for many years when it comes to environmental reporting. Since the early 1990s, European countries have been implementing packaging regulations to encourage the recycling, recovery and reuse of packaging waste under the umbrella of EPR (extended producer responsibility) directives.

The first packaging directive in 1994 mandated countries to enact legislation to meet EU-set targets for recovery and recycling. Subsequently, two major amendments to the directive in 2004 and 2013 aimed to clarify terms around the definition of packaging and to increase the recycling targets of specifc packaging materials in each member state. This naturally brought waste recycling into a much higher profile within government and industry.

Batteries included: expanding the reach of EPR
Indeed, the reach of EPR does not just stop with packaging. The first electronics and batteries directives were passed in 2002 and 2006 respectively. These have also seen revisions to their original mandate to increase targets and bring more products under legislative scope. By 2018, all electronic items must be reported.

Within the European directives there is no single standard for waste reporting as each country can, and has, implemented the directive in their own way. This brings a level of complexity which places a huge burden on multinational companies working with approved recycling compliance schemes within each country.

Information according to nation
The information companies must report to a compliance scheme varies in the levels of complexity and detail dependant on where they are based and/or how they trade in Europe. This ranges from reporting simple material tonnages (for example, the total plastic, paper or metal used in the packaging process) to providing details about each individual packaging component held in a packaging bill of materials (BOM). There are also countries which require companies to report on product origin, or to declare which step of the waste lifecycle they are at. For example, are they packaging manufacturers, packer-filers, brand-holders, retailers or a combination?

Whilst, some countries only have a requirement for household products reporting, others require the details for all products placed on the market. You may even find products within your range are excluded in some markets but included in others. If these complexities weren't enough and if you do have all the data available, some schemes also have incentive programs which reward the use of recycled materials or award discounted fees if you are promoting the recyclability of the packaging on your products.

EPR: an evolving regulation
Waste legislation is constantly evolving, with country schemes updating their regulations on a frequent basis. This can vary from a simple fee change to introducing completely new reporting categories or bringing in new items to the scope of the reporting process.

However, we have recently seen a few countries really making significant changes to their reporting requirements. The seventh amendment of packaging legislation in Germany has sought to bring even more household packaging into its dual system of waste collection. This gives manufacturers responsibility for the recycling and disposal of any packaging material sold on the market to ensure accountability. In Austria, a similar step has been taken to try to ensure the costs of packaging waste are shared more evenly through the supply chain and not just borne by household products producers. Companies selling in Austria may now find that valuable company resources are required to research and comply with these changes.

EPR across the world
EPR should not just be considered a European phenomenon. Waste reporting schemes can be found in worldwide, Israel, Turkey, Japan, Canada and Australia are just a few markets. In this rapidly developing compliance field, countries new to EPR are also reviewing the potential for waste recycling directives.

However, even when you are dealing with single countries, you cannot guarantee a harmonised approach to compliance. All Canadian provinces have electronics reporting requirements, but packaging reporting can still only be found in five provinces. Four out of these five provinces have now joined a single reporting body, but they still retain some differences in their reporting requirements.

The US has initiated a number of state-led schemes to tackle battery and electronics recycling and recovery. Most of these are currently not mandatory, fee-charging initiatives and they usually have a smaller scope than the EU initiatives, but it is likely this will change in the future. This will prove a huge challenge for companies who could face a requirement to complete 153 individual waste reports if each US state created their own schemes.

A robust and auditable system is key to compliance
Staying informed about the compliance requirements which apply to your company can be a full-time job in itself - let alone creating and submitting the reports as well as the accompanying audits to validate the data.

Ensuring a robust and auditable system is in place to monitor packaging data and product sales in each market is a vital step all companies must take to guarantee compliance. Indeed, companies can incur significant penalties through failure to meet reporting obligations on time or the provision of inaccurate data. Our expertise is enabling companies to meet their compliance goals in a structured and hassle-free process.

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