Extended producer responsibility - what does it mean for builders' merchants?
The UK’s plastic packaging recycling rate has doubled over the past ten years to an estimated 51% in 2020. Although it’s great to see the situation is improving, there are still a lot of improvements to be made, with too much of the UK’s plastic packaging still not being recycled.
Reducing single-use plastic packaging to protect the environment has been high on the government agenda for some time, with the Plastic Packaging Tax having come into force in April 2022 to demonstrate their commitment to the cause.
Following on from the Plastic Packaging Tax, the Extended Producer Responsibility is a new piece of legislation which aims to deliver a more circular economy for packaging, with more waste recycled into valuable secondary resources, reducing carbon emissions and preventing litter.
The construction industry, and specifically builders’ merchants and retailers who sell building materials, have long become accustomed to purchasing products that are packaged using plastics, whether that is through containers, shrink wrapping or items protected or bound with plastics, such as polystyrene.
The change in legislation doesn’t come into force until 2024, but how can builders’ merchants use 2023 as an opportunity to get ahead in this area, and what does the legislation mean for them?
Understanding the EPR legislation
Merchants will need to act if they do any of the following:
- Supply packaged goods to the UK market under their brand
- Place goods into packaging that’s unbranded when it’s supplied
- Import products in packaging
- Own an online marketplace (if the organisation owns a website or app that sells goods from UK organisations only, this is not classed as ‘owning an online marketplace’ activity)
- Hire or loan out reusable packaging
- Supply empty packaging
For those affected by the EPR legislation, there could be a requirement to report packaging data, pay a waste management and scheme administration fee, along with a fee to the environmental regulator. Packaging waste recycling notes (PRNs) or packaging waste export recycling notes (PERNs) are also likely to be a requirement, to meet recycling obligations. The legislation has different guidance depending on whether a business is a large or small organisation, so merchants should check and seek out the relevant guidance for their company.
To read full details on the EPR legislation visit: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/packaging-waste-prepare-for-extended-producer-responsibility
What do builders’ merchants and retailers of construction products need to do?
If the industry isn’t prepared for the new legislation, it is likely we could see an increase in costs, with rising prices for materials to help to recuperate the increased tax bills. Primarily, merchants need to understand how much plastic packaging is used in their supply chain – which they may not be aware of as they haven’t needed to report this before – and should use this insight as a key step to get ahead.
By working together with their supplier partners, merchants can better understand what plastic packaging is present across their sites and being delivered directly to customers. At Artex, we work closely with our merchant and retail customers to provide this information, because we understand how important sustainability credentials are. In our recent survey, we found that 97% of customers see sustainable suppliers as being important to their business, so we work to promote the credentials of those that are acting as such.
Another consideration for merchants is the repackaging of materials they purchase for their own branding purposes. Merchants should question whether this is always necessary, or if another solution could be available through working with their supply chain.
Waste management and recycling policies should be reviewed to understand more about the current ways plastic packaging is disposed of to get ready for the impact of the EPR, because across the merchant industry, this area will need to evolve in order to respond to the government's targets.
The benefits of a sustainable supply-chain
As part of the Saint-Gobain group, Artex is committed to reducing our environmental impact in line with our purpose of making the world a better home. As part of this, we actively work with our bag, film and tub manufacturers to reduce the amount of plastic we use in our packaging. We’ve already transitioned the packaging for our own brand products to include 30% recycled content, and are always looking to switch to more recyclable materials in our packaging like paper and cardboard when relevant to do so.
Through working closely with suppliers that are committed to sustainability, builders’ merchants and retailers can get ahead of the plastic packaging legislation, and reduce the impact on their business, for the benefit of their customers and the wider world around us.