UK EPR & compostable packaging – let’s get composting  

Defra has released a consultation open until 9th October 2023 for anyone to comment on a first draft of its Producer Responsibility Regulations (137 pages long, full of interesting stuff).  

Here’s our 7 key takeaways – our rough and ready analysis of the latest news on UK #ExtendedProducerResponsibility. Including our best guesses of how our materials might fit in with Defra’s materials categories.  

Vegware will be poring over the details and circulate our final key takeaways, in case that helps any of our clients and friends to respond to Defra with their opinions. We’re keen for all of the sector to help shape this important policy. 

Happy reading! Especially points 4 and 7… 

1. Compostable packaging is included in Defra’s draft vision of #EPR and mandatory cup takeback 

This draft regulation has lots of positive knock-on effects for compostable packaging… 

  • Composting used Vegware counts as recycling packaging. So for mandatory cup takeback, composting compostable cups will count. 
  • Our compostable packaging will have the ‘recyclable’ labelling, alongside information on how to get it to suitable composting.  

Here’s what this is based on… 

2. Defra counts composting as a form of recycling 

Whilst this is a draft and not final regulation, we are really pleased to see that composting is recognised as a form of recycling. You can find this on page 10, in the definition of recycling:  

“recycling” has the meaning given in Article 3(17) of the Waste Directive. 

And here is the definition they are referring to:  

17. ‘recycling’ means any recovery operation by which waste materials are reprocessed into products, materials or substances whether for the original or other purposes. It includes the reprocessing of organic material but does not include energy recovery and the reprocessing into materials that are to be used as fuels or for backfilling operations; 

‘Organics recycling’ means either composting or anaerobic digestion, so it’s clear that composting used Vegware does count as ‘recycling’ within this policy. 

Let’s help more clients compost used Vegware 

We’ve been working closely with the waste sector for over a decade, establishing routes to commercial composting and helping our customers compost their Vegware. There are Vegware composting collections across many parts of the UK. Our Environmental team offer free waste consultancy to customers, helping them close the loop on packaging and food waste. Check out our composting case studies. Want to compost your Vegware? Click here to speak to our Environmental team. 

3. Payment deferred to 2025 – but data reporting still needed for 2023 

You can read all the Defra guidance online here: Extended producer responsibility for packaging: who is affected and what to do – GOV.UK ( The latest news (in July 2023) is the delay to 2025: 

“EPR for packaging fees have been deferred for a year. You will not have to pay any EPR for packaging fees in 2024. However, you must still follow this guidance and report your packaging data for 2023. You must also continue to pay any fees due under previous regulations.” 

Vegware, as an ‘obligated producer’ – that is, a company putting packaging onto the market for the first time, will be paying EPR fees for the amount of packaging we sell. Just like we already do in the existing PRN system. Other UK companies selling packaging or loaning reusable packaging will also need to pay – check all the details on the Government website here

4. Defra’s previous negativity about ‘compostable packaging’ has disappeared in the draft regs 

Some clients have been asking if the UK’s new Extended Producer Responsibility rules mean that all compostable packaging is going to be priced out of the market. That’s not the case – and here’s our understanding so far.  

Defra caused confusion in its 2021 EPR consultation response, by stating ‘compostable packaging’ would be evaluated as ‘not recyclable’. But reading the details now released in 2023, this has disappeared and the text has become more logical. PLA and CPLA aren’t mentioned anywhere, and nor is compostability. These plant-based and compostable materials are technically and legally defined as types of plastic, and they aren’t listed in the ‘Other’ category together with cork, bamboo, ceramic and silicone. So this looks like PLA and CPLA would be subcategories under ‘plastic’. 

And given that composting is defined as a form of recycling (see point 2 above), and that there are many UK composting options, it follows logically that compostable PLA and CPLA items should be classed for EPR as ‘recyclable’ (but remember not to put them in a plastics recycling bin – chat to us about composting).  

It also follows on logically that compostable packaging would get the ‘recyclable’ swoosh label – and that on the packaging this would be made clear that it needs to be composted and providing any specific instructions for that. We have a couple of years before these labels are required, and Vegware will be ready. We’ve already been working with OPRL and others on this subject. 

5. Modulated fees still not decided 

Defra has said that there will be varied (‘modulated’) compliance fees, depending on how ‘recyclable’ the Scheme Administrator says each material is. These fees have not yet been worked out, and there is not yet a Scheme Administrator in place. Defra is now taking an extra year to work out what the fees should be when they are payable from 2025 (not 2024). During this time Vegware will be engaging with the policy makers to show how compostable packaging fits into existing waste infrastructure. You should too! 

6. Vegware’s materials & Defra’s categories – our best guesses 

Vegware uses a variety of plant-based and compostable materials. Defra’s material categories in the draft EPR regs are:  

  • Fibre-based composite materials (the definition of this seems to include all paper cups with any form of waterproofing) 
  • Paper or board 
  • Plastic (given other previous legislation and definitions, we assume this includes plant-based and compostable plastics too, so PLA and CPLA would be a subcategory under here) 
  • Wood  
  • Other materials (assuming PLA & CPLA are a subcategory of ‘plastic’, we have none in this category). 
  • (Also aluminium, glass and steel – but Vegware doesn’t use any of these.) 

So on this basis, here’s how we think our range fits in with Defra’s materials, along with our guess as to how this may translate into modulated compliance fees: 

Defra material category: Fibre-based composite materials 

Vegware’s product types: Fibre-based composite materials. Mainly some form of fibre such as paper or card, but with a lining or clear window. 

Product examples: PLA-lined paper cups, soup containers, sandwich wedges.  

Our guess on the EPR fee: Medium – in line with conventional fibre-based composite materials. 

Defra material category: Paper or board 

Vegware’s product types: Products made from paper or board without linings or windows. Transit or secondary packaging made from cardboard or paper. 

Product examples: Paper cutlery, Nourish moulded fibre, bagasse, microflute trays & boxes, paper bags, food cartons, premium burger boxes. Cardboard boxes and paper wraps around products within a case. 

Our guess on the EPR fee: Low – in line with conventional paper or board products. 

Defra material category: Plastic 

Vegware’s product types: Products made mainly out of plant-based compostable polymers such as PLA or CPLA. Some of our secondary packaging uses PP film. 

Product examples: PLA deli containers or clear cups, CPLA hot cup lids. The PP film sleeve around 25 cups within a case. 

Our guess on the EPR fee: Medium – but likely low price impact per item, and with a discount for Vegware that gets composted, given that composting counts as a form of recycling. PLA and CPLA aren’t accepted in most UK *household* collections, but there are plenty of other composting options including widespread business collections and UK-wide post-back. So given the work we have done since 2012 to drive access to composting, these materials should not attract the highest compliance fees, as previously thought.  

Defra material category: Wood 

Vegware’s product types: Pure untreated wood. 

Product examples: Wooden cutlery, stirrers. 

Our guess on the EPR fee: Low. 

7. What’s next? Engage with Defra, and compost more! 

Everyone who uses or processes packaging should respond to the consultation. This is just our rough and ready analysis of the draft regulation. Vegware’s in-house policy nerds will be combing through the detail. Then we’ll share an analysis with clients, for people who can’t read all 137 pages but do want to help Defra shape future policies affecting their business. 

Key thing – let’s press on with more composting! Why? 

Food waste can really mess up mechanical recycling, which means that huge amounts of conventional takeaway packaging ends up in incineration or landfill. So for food businesses who rely on disposables, compostable packaging offers a simple solution – the used cups, saucy containers and souped-up cutlery can all go together in one bin for industrial composting. Food scraps aren’t contamination here – they’re a vital ingredient in future compost.  

And the UK government in its draft regulations have been careful to include – rather than lock out – the composting of compostable packaging. Thank you, people at Defra!  

Vegware’s expert Environmental team is led by a CIWM Chartered Waste Manager, and we can help clients set up all sorts of composting solutions for used Vegware: 

  • Regular wheelie bin collections in over 40 of the UK’s largest towns and cities 
  • On-site composting units 
  • UK-wide post-back services 


Keen to compost?

Compostability will always be the focus for our entire range, with industry-leading certification and expertise to help clients Close the Loop.  Just fill out a couple of details and we’ll be in touch with information about composting opportunities specific to your area.

There we go – that’s our take on it so far. Plenty still to read and analyse, but we wanted to share our thoughts so far.