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The legalrequirement to reduce, re-use, recover and recycle packaging, and what evidence you need in order to demonstrate compliance.
Note: although the United Kingdom has left the European Union, certain pieces of legislation (formally known as 'retained EU law') will still apply until such time as they are replaced by new UK legislation; this means that you will still see references to EU regulations in our guidance.
This guidance is for England, Scotland and Wales
The Packaging (Essential Requirements) Regulations 2015 are concerned with environmental impacts from packaging and packaging waste. Businesses that make or use packaging or its raw materials (including manufacturers, packers, fillers and retailers) are required by law to ensure that a certain percentage of the packaging that is placed on the market is recoverable and recycled. The Regulations also require packaging to comply with concentration limits for heavy metals.
Packaging must satisfy certain 'essential requirements' relating to its size, design and manufacture. Responsibility for compliance lies with the person who places the packaging or packaging components on the market for the first time. This includes anyone who puts their name, mark or trade mark on the package; it also includes the importer.
Definition of packaging
The Packaging (Essential Requirements) Regulations 2015 define packaging as "all products made of any materials of any nature to be used for the containment, protection, handling, delivery and presentation of goods". This includes everything "from raw materials to processed goods" and includes packaging at any stage of a product's journey, not just that which is received by a consumer.
Types of packaging:
Further inclusions under the definition of 'packaging':
Concentration limits for heavy metals
The concentration limits apply to lead, cadmium, mercury and hexavalent chromium. The sum of the concentration level of these metals in the packaging, or in packaging components, must not exceed 100 parts per million (subject to certain exemptions).
The essential requirements
The essential requirements are aimed at minimising packaging weight and volume, and reducing packaging waste in line with the product's safety, hygiene and consumer acceptance.
Packaging is taken to satisfy the essential requirements if it satisfies the national standards that have been deemed to comply with the essential requirements orthat implement the relevant designated standards* (BS EN 13427:Packaging. Requirements for the use of European Standards in the field of packaging and packaging waste and related standards), or where no designated standard exists, if it complies with recognised quality standards.
[*'Designated standards' are those approved by the Secretary of State and published by the British Standards Institution (BSI).]
A summary of the essential requirements is given below.
MANUFACTURING AND COMPOSITION
The following requirements must be satisfied:
All of the following requirements must also be satisfied.
Requirements specific to reusable packaging:
Requirements specific to the recoverable nature of packaging:
Who is responsible?
The person who places the packaging or packaging components on the market is responsible, including anyone who puts their name, mark or trade mark on the package, or the importer. The person also has a duty to maintain technical documentation to show that the packaging complies with the essential requirements and heavy metal concentration limits. The documentation must be kept for four years and be produced to the enforcement authority (trading standards) within 28 days of a request.
Particular care should be taken when considering 'consumer acceptance' of over-packaging. If it could be argued that consumers are buying goods despite the excessive packaging then you may not be complying with the Regulations.
Special rules apply if you handle more than 50 tonnes of packaging a year and you have a turnover of more than 2 million.
Guidance notes on the Packaging (Essential Requirements) Regulations 2015 have been produced by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS, which was known as the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills at the time) and can be found on the GOV.UK website, where you can also find information on producer responsibilities.
For more information on the work of trading standards services - and the possible consequences of not abiding by the law - please see 'Trading standards: powers, enforcement and penalties'.
Last reviewed / updated: May 2021
In this update
Definition of 'designated standard' added
This information is intended for guidance; only the courts can give an authoritative interpretation of the law.
The guide's 'Key legislation' links may only show the original version of the legislation, although some amending legislation is linked to separately where it is directly related to the content of a guide. Information on amendments to legislation can be found on each link's 'More Resources' tab.
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