Defra looks at PRN system

Posted on 1st September, 2014

The UK’s packaging waste system, which sees obligated businesses accounting for recycling through the purchase of PRNs (packaging waste recovery notes), continues to attract attention.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) which is responsible for the packaging waste legislation is sounding out parties involved as to what they think of the current system.

One of the areas under discussion is the issuing of PRNs on material sent overseas for recycling. Some in the sector feel that the issuing of PRNs on overseas material is not fair, to the extent that they should be issued per tonne of material and overseas mills might issue one per tonne, even where there is a lot of contaminated material in it. In particular plastics recyclers are calling for reform of the PRN system to establish a split target for plastic packaging recycled in the UK and that exported overseas for reprocessing. This is among several policy proposals outlined by the Recycling Group of the British Plastics Federation (BPF) in its 2014 manifesto published last month.

The organisation acknowledges that the export sector has been key to driving up plastics recycling rates to date, but claims that more incentive is needed to increase the amount of plastic packaging that is recycled in the UK.

BPF adds that given the possibility that plastic packaging recycling targets could rise in line with proposals put forward by the European Commission last month the UK will need to reduce the reliance on exporting plastics overseas in order to prevent economic opportunities from being lost.