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Producer responsibility for managing waste

From 1 February 2010, if you supply more than 32kg a year of portable batteries, you will need to take back used batteries from the public free of charge. Read more...

Be posistive logo - recycle your batteries hereProducer responsibility in the UK is a policy tool that is an extension of the "polluter pays" principle, and is aimed at ensuring that businesses who place products on the market take responsibility for those products once they have reached the end of their life. At this stage, producer responsibility has been the policy approach taken in relation to the management of waste products, with the aim that it would filter back along the product’s life cycle and drive resource efficiency throughout. There is no reason however, why this policy approach could not be applied more directly to each stage in order to increase effectiveness in addressing environmental issues.

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Packaging Strategy CoverA "producer responsibility" policy underlies the approach taken in implementing the EC Directive on Packaging and Packaging Waste in the UK and is the approach taken in both the EC Directive on Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) and End of Life Vehicles (ELV) Directives. All these producer responsibility directives, as well as the forthcoming directive on Batteries and Accumulators were identified in the European Union's Fifth Environment Action Programme as "priority waste streams" because of growing concern about their impact on the environment. These Directives clearly place responsibility on producers to bear the costs of collection, sorting or treatment and recycling or recovery.

What are we trying to achieve?

Overall, the Government wants to see a more sustainable approach to resource use and a reduction in the quantity of waste going to landfill, by diverting end of life products to re-use, recycling or other forms of recovery.

Producer responsibility Makes businesses that place products on the market partly or wholly responsible for the costs of dealing with the products when they become waste. Producer Responsibility schemes can give producers an incentive to design products in a way that:

  • uses fewer resources
  • reduces or eliminates the use of hazardous substances or materials in the manufacture of the product
  • uses greater amounts of recyclate in the manufacture of the product
  • minimises waste from the product
  • can be reused
  • can be more easily treated/dismantled and recycled

What products are covered so far?

European legislation, transposed in UK law, covers the following waste streams:

We have also negotiated voluntary producer responsibility agreements with the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) to increase the recycling of Direct Mail and Promotions material ("junk" mail), the Periodical Publishers Association (PPA) to increase the recycling of magazines, and the Newspaper Publishers Association (NPA) to increase the recycled content of newsprint.

Find out more about these voluntary agreements.

Which department is responsible for these policies?

Defra is responsible for policy on waste management but responsibility for producer responsibility legislation is  split between Defra and the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) as both Departments have major interests.You can find additional information on the BIS website. See also our tyre disposal information

Monitoring and enforcement is shared between Trading Standards, Environment Agencies and local authorities.

Advice for business is provided by Envirowise, WRAP, the EA's NetRegs, Trading Standards and is also available from many non-governmental sources.

Contact details



Farm Plastics, WEEE, Voluntary Agreements, End-of-Life vehicles




Or write to:
Producer Responsibility Unit
Waste Management Division
Area D, Floor 6
Ergon House
Horseferry Road
London, SW1P 2AL

Page last modified: 1 February 2010
Page published: 5 February 2003