Plastics recyclers call for split PERN/PRN targets

The British Plastics Federation Recycling Group (BPFRG), part of the BPF trade association for the UK plastics industry, is calling on government to split targets for packaging recycled in the UK/EU and abroad (outside the EU) so that they are weighted in favour of domestic recycling.

Releasing its manifesto for 2014 yesterday (19 August), BPFRG highlighted its belief that ‘the best environmental and business outcomes are achieved by recycling UK and European plastic packaging waste within the UK and Europe’ and that, as such, there should be government incentives to drive investment in recycling and UK/EU manufacturing in the hopes of increasing usage of recycled polymers.

It stated that this could be achieved by amending the current Packaging Recovery Note/Packaging Export Recovery Notes (PRN/PERN) system – which provides packaging producers with the necessary evidence to prove that a tonne of packaging waste had been recycled – so that there is an ‘increased weighting towards recycling locally from year to year’.

Proposal details

An example of this would be increasing PRN targets by five per cent every year, whilst dropping PERN targets by the same amount (however BPFRG warns that ‘the exact figures should be calculated based on a clearly defined strategy’).

BPFRG highlighted that this system would bring about a range of benefits, including:

  • increased amounts of PRN revenue on sorting and processing equipment ‘without the risk of that money being re-directed to fund feedstock’;
  • reduced dependence on overseas markets and ‘mitigating the risk associated with price volatility’;
  • ‘best quality’ recyclate and ensuring materials are recycling to EU standards;
  • reduced overall cost of compliance (as the system would ‘lead to greater confidence to invest in the UK and EU recycling sectors which, as it increases supply side capacity, would in turn lead to lower PRN values’);
  • a reduced national carbon footprint; and
  • the creation of UK-based ‘green’ jobs.

However, BPFRG stated that it was not ‘against exports’ (as they ‘play an essential role in the achievement of a sustainable recycling sector and contribute to the UK net balance of payments’) but that ‘the greater value-add for the UK would be to recycle the waste plastic materials inside the UK economy and then to export a much higher value, high-quality recycled polymer pellet directly to European and overseas manufacturing industries’.

Further to the call for split PRN/PERN targets, BPFRG is also calling for incentives to increase recycled polymer usage. This, it says, could be done by allowing packaging producers (such as manufacturers and retailers) to ‘offset’ their PRN obligation by using and specifying recycled polymers, thus providing ‘much needed traction to develop end markets for recycled plastics, which are crucial given the uncertainties of the global waste market’.

‘Ensuring that traction exists to encourage investment in recycling’

Speaking yesterday, Roger Baynham, Chairman of the BPFRG, said: “The proposals contained in this manifesto are designed not only to provide a route map to deliver the best environmental outcomes from plastic waste but also to create new low carbon manufacturing jobs in the vanguard of the circular economy.

“The BPFRG believes the future proofing of markets for waste can only be achieved by ensuring that traction exists to encourage investment in recycling infrastructure and innovation to develop new markets and applications for recycled plastics.”

Read BPFRG’s 2014 manifesto in full or find out more about the PRN/PERN system.