Materials

PRN targets met despite failure to comply

The total amount of packaging recovery notes (PRNs) and packaging export recovery notes (PERNs) issued by reprocessors in 2012 was ‘sufficient’ to meet targets, despite five companies failing to comply, preliminary figures released by the Environment Agency (EA) show.

Under the Packaging Waste Regulations, producers (or compliance schemes representing producers) are required to purchase the notes from reprocessors or exporters to prove that they have met their packaging recovery/recycling obligations.

Figures published on the EA’s National Packaging Waste Database on Monday (11 February) show that in 2012 (up to the end of the compliance period on 31 January 2013), all 44 UK-approved compliance schemes met their targets, with five producers having missed their producer responsibility obligations. These unnamed companies will now be investigated by the ‘relevant agencies’.

Speaking in October last year, a Defra spokesperson said: “We expect producers to make every effort to comply with their packaging recycling and recovery obligations. The agencies will take appropriate enforcement action against those who do not comply.”

Glass up 210,000 tonnes

A breakdown of the figures shows that though total material recovery fell from 7.0 million tonnes in 2011 to 6.9 million tonnes in 2012, despite industry concerns of ‘impossible’ glass targets, glass recovery rates rose by over 210,000 tonnes from the last quarter.

The high price of glass PRNs (around £80 a tonne) and the increase in the price paid for recovered container glass from £5 a tonne in September to £35 a tonne in December have been cited as the major factors in seeing the glass tonnage jump so markedly in the final quarter of 2012.

Quality over quantity

Speaking to Resource, Rebecca Cocking, Head of Container Affairs at British Glass Manufacturers' Confederation, said that the increase in glass improved so drastically due to “stockpiled material being put through the system” which “may have been because the higher PRN price allowed low-grade material (for aggregate) to be processed”.

Adding that it is still “unclear” as to whether the shortfall in glass is “because previous years’ data had been overstated due to fraud”, Cocking went on to say that with the implementation of split targets for glass, there now needs to be an increase in the amount of glass being collected (from both household and commercial sources) “with quality in mind”.

“The split targets highlight the government’s commitment to ensuring that recycled glass is returned to the end market with the highest environmental benefit. The concern is that as more material is collected, the quality will deteriorate. Whilst ever aggregate and exports receive the same value from a PRN as UK remelt, then we will continue to lose the environmental benefit and be at risk of missing targets. There needs to be a commitment along the supply chain to ensure that material quality is priority”, she concluded.

PRN reform

Calls for PRN reform have been increasing recently, as more ambitious government recycling targets and increased incidents of PRN fraud have put added pressure to the recycling industry.

Further, the move by China to stop receiving imported unwashed post-consumer plastic from Europe last year led the plastic industry to warn that this will make recycling targets for plastic ‘unrealistic’.

The final PRN data for 2012 will be published in early April.

Read the provisional 2012 PRN/PERN figures.

Material

Q1

Q2

Q3

Q4

Total (tonnes)

Target (tonnes)

Paper

826,019

799,230

821,801

875,934

3,322,984

2,580,674

Glass

362,609

350,536

351,034

561,521

1,625,700

1,665,360

Aluminium

16,401

14,030

18,170

13,828

62,429

59,819

Steel

94,011

78,932

77,182

107,612

357,737

354,819

Plastic

146,620

145,875

175,187

176,265

643,947

608,957

Wood

128,288

148,911

134,934

112,238

524,371

236,135

Total recycled

1,573,948

1,537,514

1,578,308

1,847,398

6,537,168

6,490,540