Defra stands firm on need for glass PRN compliance

21 December 2012

Defra has said it still expects producers and compliance schemes to meet their glass packaging recycling obligations for 2012 – and warned that those who fail to do so will face enforcement action.

In a letter sent out this week to schemes which have not yet complied, the Department said that it has been closely monitoring progress towards the targets after figures for the third quarter of 2012 suggested that not enough glass packaging waste recovery notes (PRNs) were being issued (see letsrecycle.com story).

A Defra letter has warned that failure to comply with its 2012 glass packaging obligations could result in enforcement action
A Defra letter has warned that failure to comply with its 2012 glass packaging obligations could result in enforcement action
It explained that since that time, there had been a “significant increase” in the number of PRNs issued but that the final position would not be clear until all data is reported to the National Packaging Waste Database by the end of January 2013.

In light of the situation, Defra said it had been carefully considering its position and even considered suggestions for changes to the PRN system to help producers meet their targets.

However, the department explained that any regulatory changes could not be made in time for the 2012 period and claimed that they could create problems in the long term.

It also said that it is keen to maintain a level playing field and ensure it is fair to those schemes which have already achieved compliance in glass. It addition it is keen to maintain the integrity of the market-based PRN system and ensure the UK meets its EU packaging recycling target, which if missed could see the country exposed to costly infraction proceedings.

In this context, the Department said that schemes will still be expected to “make every effort” to meet their obligations, reaffirming the position taken by the Environment Agency last month (see letsrecycle.com story).

The letter states: “We continue to expect producers and compliance schemes, on behalf of their members, to make every effort to comply with their packaging recycling and recovery obligations.  If there are instances of non-compliance identified at the end of the year, the Agencies will take appropriate enforcement action (see section on enforcement).”

The letter explains that enforcement action might include: withdrawing a scheme’s approval; the granting of conditional approval whereby a scheme would have to meet 100% of its obligation several months before the end of the compliance period; civil sanctions; or, a formal warning, caution or prosecution.

Support

To help ease the situation, the Department suggested that schemes and accredited reprocessors consider ways of supporting producers to meet the costs of compliance such as “buy now, pay later” schemes.

It also urged reprocessors to make “every effort to recycle sufficient glass packaging waste and to make the PRNs available to the market as quickly as possible.”

While the Department ruled out any changes to the PRN system in the short term, it addedthat as part of the ongoing review of the Packaging Regulations it would work with the Environment Agency to identify the cause for the spike in glass PRN prices and see if there was any way to prevent a similar situation in future.

Split targets

The glass recycling target in 2013 is flat and looking forward Defra said that its expectation is that the market will adjust and that there will be a levelling off from the most recent spike in glass PRN prices.

However, it stressed that the target would be split and that this would have to be factored into the process of meeting the targets for the year. The split target means that a minimum amount will be have to met through glass sent to remelt.

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It said: “This together with the recent supply issues means that it is vitally important that compliance schemes and directly registered producers develop a good understanding of the market for all evidence and have robust plans and strategies in place to ensure that they can progress through the year towards meeting their individual obligations.

“The recent market position in the glass recovery sector is a reminder to compliance schemes of their role in taking on the recovery and recycling obligations of packaging producers and the need for them to have a strong position from which they can assure their members that their obligations will be met.”

Defra said it will continue to monitor the recovery and recycling performance for 2013, and where necessary seek updates from specific sectors as well as the Advisory Committee on Packaging on any emerging issues or difficulties.