The release of 2019 Q3 packaging waste recycling and recovery data has sparked optimism from some packaging experts that the prices for aluminium and plastic PRNs will ease, although concerns have been raised over how robust the latest figures are.
The Q3 packaging data, published this week on the National Packaging Waste Database (NPWD) website, shows the overall volume of material collected to meet targets during the three months from July to September.
The figures are provisional until confirmed by the Environment Agency and are subject to change as more companies submit their data.
As outlined in the table below, paper, glass, steel and wood are all on track to exceed their obligation, while aluminium recorded a 10% jump from Q2 to near its target.
Many experts in the sector have used the figures to suggest that the aluminium and plastics markets have recovered in terms of volumes of material reprocessed, and they have been tipped to hit targets despite concern expressed earlier in the year.
Upon the release of the Q2 data in the summer, fear was expressed that aluminium, along with plastics, would struggle to hit its target despite “stronger” results in Q2 as the market reacted to the higher PRN price.
Speaking after the Q3 results came out, Rick Hindley, executive director, of the Aluminium Packaging Recycling Organisation (Alupro) said he is confident the aluminium target will now be met and a reduction in the PRN price will follow.
“We are optimistic that this year’s target will be met and anticipate that there should be more than enough evidence to allow producers to meet their obligations. As a result, we expect the unjustifiably high PRN price will start to fall to more realistic levels.”
The optimism was echoed by Phil Conran, chair of the government’s Advisory Committee on Packaging, although he also sounded a warning over the figures.
“There is definitely optimism with regards to targets, as all materials are on track. Even Aluminium, which is slightly behind where it should be, will hit its target providing it repeats the same performance in Q4.
“My worry is whether the plastic figures are robust or and sustainable and whether high PRN prices may be encouraging fraudulent behaviour that could undermine future performance. As they are though, they look good.”
With most targets on track there is also confidence that the general target will also be met once the final Q4 data is collected for the year.
Sam Caplen, Clarity Environmental business development executive, said despite many positives there should be an element of caution in what is a “tight market” for plastics.
“The UK will comfortably achieve its general recycling obligation, assisted by the excess wood and paper available,” he explained.
Mr Caplen added: “The Q3 data has brought some relief to plastic PRNs. Including carry over, plastic is now slightly ahead of target for the time of year and we have started to see a softening in the price of plastic PRNs as a result. It is important to remain cautious, however, as availability is still tight and we do expect to see the plastic obligation increase.”
“The data for aluminium and plastic suggests that the UK will still require a strong recycling rate for Q4 to ensure compliance is met”
The positive figures come as many compliance schemes have been vocal in their anger at what they consider are unnecessarily high PRN prices in the market, and have called for a ‘compliance fee’ model. Others reason that as targets set to be met, it could be argued that the current system in place is working.
In a statement to letsrecycle.com, Sandeep Attwal, procurement specialist at the compliance scheme Ecosurety, said despite the positives a strong fourth quarter is still needed.
“The data for aluminium and plastic suggests that the UK will still require a strong recycling rate for Q4 to ensure compliance is met. It is encouraging to see that new reprocessors and exporters are still being accredited for aluminium and plastic and this should help ease the uncertainty within these markets”.
Elsewhere, Andrew Letham, operations manager at the trading platform T2E, said the results are positive and many of the targets look comfortable, with some markets responding accordingly.
“The UK will comfortably achieve its general recycling obligation, assisted by the excess wood and paper available”
“Overall a very positive Q3 with a record returns in plastic and glass making both targets look very achievable. Wood supply continues at bumper levels and with target now met it will now be a significant contributor to General Recycling,” he explained.
The figures are based on data submitted through the Packaging Recovery Note (PRN) system.