Defra mulling reuse target for wood pallets

The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is to meet with waste wood stakeholders in the coming months to discuss setting reuse targets for wood pallets.

Defra is considering setting a reuse target for wooden pallets (Picture: Shutterstock)

In a document on extended producer responsibility (EPR) for packaging published in March, Defra announced that the PRN system will be continuing, with 2022 targets carrying over into 2023 and other material targets set to 2030 (see letsrecycle.com story).

However, no targets have yet been set for wood as the government explores options for setting re-use obligations on wooden pallets. Targets will still be set for other wood packaging.

Defra explained: “We will undertake further work with the wood sector to explore options for setting re-use obligations on wooden pallets… to ensure that pallets are kept in service as long as possible, and to avoid higher recycling targets disincentivising closed loop systems for pallets.”

Discussions are now taking place between pallet manufacturers, associations, and recyclers on developing the legislation.

This work will be completed in 2022, Defra said, with the new arrangements and targets effective from 2024.

Discussions

Over the course of 2022, discussions will take place to explore how the reuse target will be set and the role recyclers play in this.

Recyclers could potentially be able to charge a handling fee as part of the targets, for example, and will play a part in developing guidance about what is reusable.

It is also thought that with the cost of timber soaring in recent months, pallet manufacturers want to see greater reuse of material, pointing to the fact that reuse is higher up the hierarchy than recycling.

Targets

The targets for wood under the PRN system have been a cause of debate in recent years.

Wood recyclers will feature in discussions on how the target will be met

In 2018, the European Commission more than halved wood targets from 75% by 2030 to 30% (see letsrecycle.com story).

EU sources at the time indicated that agreeing on higher targets proved difficult during negotiations, because the preferred path for wood packaging for many countries is to reuse pallets multiple times and then recover the energy contained within the wood at the end-of-life.

However, wood recyclers were disappointed when this was transposed to the UK in November 2020.

Defra confirmed then that wood packaging targets will drop from 48% in 2020 to 35% in 2021 and 2022. Since September 2020, when talks of the target rise began, PRN prices for wood have not topped £10.

This means that in recent months, some have been more open to discussions in the hope a solution for all could be achieved.

We have been concerned for some time that the targets are too low

  • Julia Turner, Wood Recyclers Association

‘Pleased’

Julia Turner, executive director of the Wood Recyclers Association, said: “We are pleased to be working with Defra and others in the sector on both wood packaging reuse and recycling targets.

“We have been concerned for some time that the wood recycling packaging targets are too low and we hope this will go some way towards addressing that.”

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