Data suggesting the UK’s packaging recycling and recovery rate rose by nearly 800,000 tonnes in 2016 shows the value of the PRN system, the Advisory Committee on Packaging (ACP) has claimed.
The ACP – a Defra-appointed body which advises the government on packaging recycling – suggests that the provisional 2016 tonnages show that packaging recycling has reached around 65%, and demonstrate the UK’s ability to compete in the global secondary resource market.
However, the organisation concedes there is “still much to be done” to maximise recycling to levels anticipated under the EU’s Circular Economy targets.
The ACP was responding to figures extrapolated from the Environment Agency’s monthly packaging data for January 2016 to February 2017.
It shows that provisionally the amount of packaging recycled or recovered is likely to finish at an estimated 8.2 million tonnes, increasing 766,718 tonnes on the previous 12 months.
The final producer recycling and recovery obligation for the year stands at 7.7 million tonnes – meaning nearly 500,000 tonnes is expected to be carried over into 2017 (see letsrecycle.com story).
The ACP has welcomed strong performances from individual packaging materials, including an 18% rise in aluminium recycling, and a 14% increase in both plastics and steel.
Even wood packaging recycling, which has seen a 60% drop since 2008 due to competition from biomass treatment, increased by 8% from 2015 to 2016.
The ACP went on to note that packaging recycling in the UK now stands at nearly 65% – showing the packaging recovery note (PRN) system is continuing to achieve ‘low cost’ recycling growth compared to other European systems.
Under the Packaging Waste Regulations, producers buy PRNs from accredited reprocessors or exporters as proof that they are meeting their recycling obligations – with the number purchased determined by government-set business targets.
“This performance also shows the value of the UK’s PRN system in continuing to achieve low cost recycling growth in comparison to many other members of the EU.”The Advisory Committee on Packaging
However, the system has come under increasing scrutiny in recent years with both producers and reprocessors complaining of market volatility, as well as a lack of transparency over where revenue raised by PRNs. This has fuelled debate over whether European-based extended producer responsibility schemes should be considered as an alternative.
The ACP said: “The secondary resource industry operates in an extremely competitive global market, so it is not only about collection but it also demonstrates the UK’s ability to compete in these markets and provide the material that the reprocessing industries both here and overseas demand. This performance also shows the value of the UK’s PRN system in continuing to achieve low cost recycling growth in comparison to many other members of the EU.
“The ACP recognises the challenges that future targets and the Circular Economy will apply and clearly, there is still much to be done to maximise recycling to levels that optimise resource efficiency. But it also believes that the UK’s packaging recycling performance record is cause for celebration and that those within industry as well as National and Local Government that have worked to achieve these results should be applauded.”
Official Q4 statistics for 2016 will not be published by the Environment Agency next month, with 2017 Q1 data to follow in April.