The National Audit Office (NAO) released a report last month looking into the PRN system, and questioned the “robustness” of data recorded.
The report by the independent parliamentary body was conducted following a request from the Environment Audit Committee, chaired by Labour MP Mary Creagh.
Packaging recycling obligations apply to all companies that handle more than 50 tonnes of packaging each year, and requires them to demonstrate that they have recycled a portion of that material through using the PRN system which helps fund recycling work.
According to the NAO, figures which have been published showing packaging recycling performance in recent years may not be ‘robust’, due to the potential existence of fraud and errors within the system.
In the report, the NAO found that the rate of plastic packaging found to be recycled shot up in 2012 at a time when household commercial collections had “plateaued”.
The report added that while this may not be enough to “undermine the achievement of the target”, procedures should be in place to ensure that the figure is accurate.
“This increase is not entirely unlikely: a major waste management company told us that they had greatly increased collections in the sector,” the report said.
The NAO went on to say that the government has “not faced up” to issues within the PRN system, including the potential for fraud and error. The Environment Agency, which is responsible for enforcing the system’s regulations in England, has fallen well short of its targets for inspections, the NAO added.
Later this year the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is expected to issue a consultation paper on changes to the PRN system. It seems unlikely that an alternative system will be produced, but instead options to amend the current system will be proposed.