Understanding environmental legislation as a retailer

By Melanie Harper

If your company has grown quickly or you have previously been unaware of what environmental legislation may affect you as a retailer, then take a read of our blog which explains what Packaging, WEEE, Batteries and ESOS regulations are.

Packaging Compliance

The Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging Waste) Regulations 2007 aims to ensure that businesses who ‘handle’ packaging materials are responsible for the impact such packaging has on the environment at the end of life.

A common misunderstanding is that the legislation relates solely to the amount of waste packaging a company produces on its site, however, what it actually relates to is the packaging flowing through a business.   

If your business is performing one or more of the following activities then you are ‘handling’ packaging:

  • Manufacturing packaging raw materials
  • Conversion of such packaging raw materials into empty packaging
  • Filling empty packaging with your products
  • Selling packaged products to end users i.e. who remove the packaging
  • Importing products that have packaging around them (or importing empty packaging into the UK)

Are you obligated?

You are an ‘obligated’ packaging producer if you, or a group of companies you are part of:

·        handle over 50 tonnes of packaging materials or packaging a year, and

·        have a turnover more than £2 million a year

How much is 50 tonnes?

The 50 tonnes of packaging handled in the previous compliance year threshold of the Packaging Regulations has the potential to be easily exceeded due to a lack of knowledge of packaging weights. The table below demonstrates different material types and the quantity of units that would equate to 50 tonnes. This rough guide should be used to help determine whether a business is over the 50 tonne threshold.

Levels of Packaging

Under the Packaging Regulations there are three layers of packaging. The person who unwraps any level of packaging is considered the end user of that particular material. It is therefore important to understand which level of packaging a company is bracketed at to determine total obligation tonnage and total cost. We’ve outlined the three tiers below.

Primary (sales) Packaging

The wrapping or containers handled by the consumer or end user. Protects and advertises the product (e.g. foil wrapped around a chocolate bar).

Secondary (group) Packaging

Larger cases or boxes that are used to group quantities of primary packaged goods for distribution and for display in shops (e.g. the cardboard box around a large number of foil-wrapped chocolate bars).

Tertiary (transit) Packaging

The containers that are used to gather the groups into larger loads for transport, which facilitates loading and unloading of goods (e.g. wooden pallets and plastic wrapping).

Producer Responsibilities - what do you need to do?

Under the Regulations, it is a legal requirement for all obligated Packaging Producers (currently around 7,000 UK companies) to register with the relevant Environment Agency (EA).

The EAs actively seek to prosecute non-registered producer companies. Failure to comply with the regulations could result in prosecution under criminal law or civil penalties.

Find out more and to listen to a podcast about packaging compliance

Plastic packaging

WEEE Compliance

What are WEEE Regulations?

The purpose of the regulations is to divert volumes of waste electrical equipment from landfill. The regulations place the onus on producers to be responsible for their items when they become waste.

The UK regulations require businesses to:

  • Minimise waste arising from their electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) products and promote their reuse
  • Ensure the waste products are treated correctly and meet recovery and recycling targets for the waste materials
  • Design products by reducing material use and enhancing reusability and recyclability

Are you obligated?

You are an ‘obligated’ WEEE producer if you place electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) on the UK market for the first time, in one of the following ways:

  • Manufacture and sell EEE under your own brand in the UK
  • Resell equipment made by someone else under your own brand (if the maker’s brand appears on the equipment they are the producer)
  • Import EEE on a commercial basis into the UK
  • Are established outside of the UK and supply EEE directly to the UK market by distance selling (e.g. online, mail order, phone)

What do you need to do?

Under the Regulations, it is mandatory that all obligated WEEE producers register with the Environment Agency (EA). If a business places five or more tonnes of EEE on the market in a year, they are considered a large producer, while if a business places under five tonnes of EEE on the market in a year, the business will be considered a small producer.

In the UK, companies are required to register within 28 days of becoming aware that they are obligated under the UK WEEE Regulations.

To find out more about registration, click here.

Plastic in tree

Batteries Compliance

Under the Waste Battery and Accumulator Regulations, battery producers are responsible for minimising harmful effects of waste batteries on the environment.

These Regulations set out requirements for waste battery collection, treatment, recycling and disposal for all battery types and affect producers, battery distributors (retailers), waste battery collectors, recyclers and exporters.

Who is obligated?

You can be obligated under the Waste Batteries Regulations if you are either a producer or distributor of batteries.


You will be obligated as a producer under this legislation if your business first places batteries onto the UK market; this includes batteries contained within products such as in a laptop or mobile phone, etc. Therefore, if you import electrical and electronic products containing batteries into the UK, it is likely you will have an obligation under these regulations. 

Your company must also have a physical presence in the UK, such as a UK office, trading arm, or Post Office box to be considered a producer.

The types of batteries covered are automotive batteries, industrial batteries and portable batteries. Your company is not considered the producer of batteries if you import them for your own use.

Companies that have bought batteries from a UK supplier are not considered to be a producer.


A distributor is a company that supplies batteries or products containing batteries, on a professional basis to an end user. This includes UK sourced batteries.

Distributors who sell more than 32 kilograms a year of portable batteries to end users have a distributor obligation. This means you must accept waste portable batteries from end users without charge.

If the batteries are sold within products (e.g. a laptop battery) then you would not have this obligation unless you also sold portable batteries separately above the threshold weight.

It is possible that you are both a producer and a distributor, and if this is the case, you will need to comply with the obligations for both categories.

Find out more


The Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (ESOS)

The Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (ESOS) is the UK’s interpretation of Article 8 of the EU Energy Efficiency Directive and is administered by the Environment Agency. The UK wide scheme has been developed to realise the significant opportunities for energy and cost savings for UK businesses. Compliance is mandatory for all obligated large undertakings and their corporate groups.

The Aim

  • To help the EU to reduce its carbon emissions by 20% by 2020
  • £1.6 billion net benefit to the economy (large opportunity for businesses to save money)

Who is obligated?

A UK organisation is obligated to comply with ESOS if on the qualification date for a given ESOS Phase* it either:

• Employs 250 or more people, or

• Has an annual turnover in excess of €50 million (£44,847,071 phase 2*), and an annual balance sheet total in excess of €43 million (£38,568,481 phase 2*), or

• Is an overseas company with a UK registered establishment which has 250 or more UK employees (paying income tax in the UK)

*We have calculated the figures quoted based on the exchange rate from euros to sterling as stated by the Bank of England on 31 December 2018 (the qualification date for ESOS Phase 2).

Listen to an ESOS podcast and find out even more

Melanie Harper, Marketing Manager, Comply Direct

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