Ecoveritas has warned businesses not to be caught off-guard following the Environment Agency's announcement that it is delaying the enforcement of its EPR data submission deadline. Under the new edict, companies that miss the first two EPR submission deadlines of 1 October 2023 and 1 April 2024 will not be prosecuted, provided they submit all required data by 31 May 2024. However, the deadline for submission under the existing Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging Waste) Regulations 2007 remains unchanged (7 April), adding an extra layer of complexity to the dual-reporting transitional phase of the EPR rollout.
Rebecca Webber, Operations Manager at Ecoveritas
Rebecca Webber, Operations Manager at Ecoveritas, warned businesses not to take the additional time for granted, saying, "We encourage companies to do their best to meet their existing deadlines. We will be working with all our clients closely using all reasonable endeavours to report packaging data by the current reporting dates of 1 October 2023 and 1 April 2024, wherever possible, as we understand that this packaging data is vital to improving the modelling of illustrative base fees, which producers so desperately need to plan effectively for the future. Defra cannot provide producers with the indicative costs they urgently require without this data.
The more data producers can provide Defra with, the more accurate the illustrative base fees will be. Producers can then expect to see first estimates by the end of 2023/early 2024. "It's important to remember that filing under the old 2007 regulations remains unchanged, so one-half of business reporting remains the same even as the other half constantly shifts," added Webber. "Clearly, the rollout of EPR continues to be an absolute omnishambles, but it's businesses who will pay the price if they get any details wrong in a last-minute scramble to meet the new May deadline."
Notably, this regulatory position statement (RPS) does not change the legal requirement to report information on or before 1 October 2023 and 1 April 2024. However, the Environment Agency will not normally take enforcement action if H1 & H2 data is submitted by the end of May. The RPS remains in force until 30 June 2024. However, the Environment Agency has warned it can "withdraw or amend" its position before this date if deemed necessary, meaning there is uncertainty over the prospect of deadlines moving further back – or even forward – at relatively short notice.
"Frankly, it's a mess," continued Webber. "This transition period should represent the perfect chance to build up that muscle memory for businesses – to entrench enhanced data collection as a core business operation. But we continually see that learning process being undermined by delay, and now by neutering the enforcement process. "As we are less than a month away from the October deadline, we expect most businesses to have an almost-complete submission ready to go anyway. We would encourage them to do what the government seemingly cannot – lead by example and try to make EPR work."