Defra publishes EPR and DRS consultations

24 MARCH 2021

Defra has just published the long awaited consultations on Extended Producer Responsibility - the replacement for the current PRN system - and the Deposit Return System. The former will be UK wide whilst the latter will apply to England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

It was expected that the Consistency consultation would be published at the same time but this has been delayed for a short while.

These are hugely complicated consultations. The EPR one runs to over 200 pages of the consultation document plus 93 pages of the Impact Assessment whilst DRS adds another hundred pages of consultation. And we would suggest that although the Impact Assessments are more complex than  the Theory of Relativity, they should also be read to try to comprehend the scale of likely cost.

Some key points:

  • The consultations will only run for ten and a half weeks, closing on 4th June.
  • These will be the last consultations before implementation.
  • There are no draft regulations.


  • Estimated costs have escalated from £1.5bn to around £2.5bn per year and will cover the collection and recycling of household packaging waste, the disposal cost of packaging in the residual household waste, a contribution to litter costs, a contribution to communication costs and the costs of collecting and recycling packaging in business waste.
  • The new system is planned to be started in the latter half of 2023, most of the way through a PRN year.
  • From the change over point, the PRN will cease to be. Reprocessors and exporters will only get the value from recycling. 
  • From that point, producer charges will cover local authority costs on an anticipated charge per tonne across 7 material types - the current 6 plus cartons.
  • Data collected in 2023 would be used to charge modulated fees - based on collectability and recyclability - to producers from April 2024.
  • Cost would be applied to producers who would be redefined from the current 4 tier system (raw material, convertor, pack filler and seller) to what would be classed as 'brand owners' - manufacturers, importers and those that sell under own brand.
  • DRS packaging would be excluded from being obligated under the EPR system
  • The consultation presents two options for governance - a single scheme administrator (SA) or a combination of the SA and compliance schemes with the latter responsible for meting targets.


  • Implementation is planned for end 2024 at which point, DRS packaging would be exempt from EPR costs. The Scottish system is planned for 2023 just to make life more complicated.
  • It will be applied to PET plastic bottles, cans and glass bottles. 
  • Two options are being considered: all-in to include all containers up to 3 litres and on-the-go to limit it to 750ml and below containers. 
  • The system will be run by a Deposit Management Organisation that will be responsible for meeting a 90% overall collection target within 3 years.
  • It is estimated that infrastructure capital costs alone will be around £1bn in 2022 plus organisational costs of £146m.
  • Items within the scope of DRS will be subject to mandatory labelling. 

These two systems will have a huge impact on UK businesses starting in 2023. This is the last chance that stakeholders will have to influence the final shape of each although both are largely decided.

Ten and a half weeks is not a lot of time to read and understand what is being proposed, especially given Easter and the fact that for many businesses that will be affected, the relevant people are still on furlough.

But we would urge anyone that is likely to be affected to start reading as soon as possible to understand what you will be in for.