Michelle Carvell, director and COO at environmental software and consultancy services provider Lorax Compliance, explains how food and drink manufacturers can avoid the risk of fines, penalties and reputational damage

Environmental compliance is fundamental to manufacturers’ corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategies. The importance of understanding Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) regulations cannot be underestimated; non-compliance can result in hefty fines and reputational damage.

EPR legislation requires all food and drink manufacturers to report periodically to national recycling organisations with details of packaging, WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) and battery sales. Effectively an environmental tax, EPR obligates manufacturers to pay fees to fund the national infrastructure for the recycling and recovery of the materials, as opposed to requiring local or central governments to cover the costs.

Primarily, EPR forces manufacturers to consider their products well after they have been distributed, as well as the long-term effects they will have on the environment. This is one of the driving forces behind the ‘circular economy’ – a cycle where, instead of products being produced, used and disposed of, they are used to their maximum value and then recovered for the materials to be reused.

The legislation makes manufacturers responsible for their products’ lifecycle, from creation through to disposal. It requires companies to pay fees based on the amount of packaging placed on the market. To complicate matters, fees are calculated differently in every EU country, each with their own reports and documentation processes – which is likely to become even more complex with Brexit in the pipeline.

There are numerous methods for companies to manage their compliance, whether through an internal team, using compliance software systems or outsourcing the whole operation to a third party. Each solution depends on the business and what best suits its needs – specifically, the scale and complexity of its operational structure and variety of product lines. For any firms unsure about their obligations in different countries, the best approach is to get advice from an environmental compliance expert. 

Food and drink manufacturers have significant obligations to reduce the environmental impact of their products and reporting their waste. Being compliant with packaging regulations is vitally important as under- or over-estimating obligations can be costly – either financially or in terms of brand reputation.