Voluntary monthly submissions by reprocessors to the National Packaging Waste Database reveal 7.9 million tonnes of packaging was recovered or recycled between January 2016 and January 2017 – indicating the obligation for the year will be met.
However, the final figure for the whole compliance year cannot be calculated until all reprocessors have submitted their tonnages – information which will be released in the Environment Agency’s quarterly data in the coming weeks.
Monthly reporting was brought in as a voluntary tool by the Environment Agency in January last year as a way of offering more consistent feedback to the packaging recovery note (PRN) system.
Previously, compliance schemes would have to wait for each official quarterly release by the Agency for an indication of how close producers were to meeting their annual obligations for packaging. A surplus or a shortfall in any material stream at the end of each quarter could cause volatility in the PRN market.
Under the monthly system, reprocessors have been able to enter the amount of packaging recovered or recycled up to 10 days after each month they are reporting on. This is aimed at providing a more accurate forecast of which materials are likely to be under or oversupplied on a monthly basis.
According to submissions recorded between 1 January 2016 and 10 January 2017, 7,912,939 tonnes of packaging have already been entered as recovered or recycled.
This already puts it above the final validated figure for 2015 (7,428,424 tonnes) – though targets will be higher for the 2016 year and does not factor in carry over PRNs which may have been issued.
In the last official update by the Environment Agency, on 9 November, the packaging recovery obligation for 2016 stood at 7,679,219 tonnes.
Due to the voluntary nature of the system, gaps in the data can lead to misinterpretation of how much packaging has been recovered. A spokesman for PRN marketplace the Environment Exchange urged ‘caution’ when analysing the figures.
T2E said: “Monthly reporting has certainly gone some way to improve the flow of information to the market however due to the way it is reported the information only really becomes valid towards the end of a quarter when submissions are compulsory.
“The data cannot be fully relied upon and therefore caution is advised when using it to make commercial decisions.”
The Environment Exchange
“Although the data helps as a guide and can highlight anomalies such as over or undersupplied markets, the data cannot be fully relied upon and therefore caution is advised when using it to make commercial decisions.”
Phil Conran, chair of the Advisory Committee on Packaging, added: “If you take it as a point in time it doesn’t have much value but if you use it for trends it starts to make sense. It’s the same people reporting to it each time, so it’s dangerous to put too much emphasis on them.”
Asked if monthly reporting could become a mandatory requirement for reprocessors, he added: “We would need a change in legislation so there’s absolutely no way it’s going to happen.”
Mr Conran continued that carry over for PRNs into 2017 looked positive with little pressure on the market – and that he was requesting the Environment Agency to release the fourth and final quarter data for 2016 by 10 February.