12 March 2018 by Steve Eminton

Cross-sector meetings to shape PRN policy

A series of six cross-sector meetings to discuss the future of the UK packaging waste (PRN) system start this week, with agreement on setting up a fund to boost recycling and communications on the agenda.

Packaging firms, small businesses, local authorities and waste companies will be among those attending the meetings/workshops which are being organised by resource charity WRAP and the packaging trade body INCPEN on behalf of secretary of state for the environment, Michael Gove.

Lord Deben has signalled his hopes for an agreement on the PRN system which will establish a more effective domestic scheme

Lord Deben

The aim, according to documents for the sessions, is to build on principles agreed at a meeting chaired by Lord Deben (John Gummer) who won agreement for the current system when he was Secretary of State for the Environment. Mr Gummer is also chairman of the Valpak compliance scheme.

WRAP said that the workshops will “include an explanation of the current system and the identified shortcomings and a discussion on options for improvement through breakout groups. The discussions will build on previous work including by the ACP and principles agreed at a meeting chaired by Lord Deben.”

The meetings/workshops will also consider a package of adjustments to the current PRN system prepared by the Advisory Committee on Packaging (see letsrecycle.com story)

The six themes agreed at a meeting coordinated by the Sancroft International consultancy, in December 2017, regarding “On the Go and PRN reform” were:

1. Everyone should play their part – this should result in the reduction or removal of the de minimis level to expand the number of obligated businesses (just as currently with batteries and all WEEE)

2. The system should financially reward recyclability

3. The system should financially reward inclusion of recycled content

4. Local authorities, businesses, and places of work should work towards a standard base recycling system, to provide certainty for all and allow the introduction of a universal labelling system.

5. The proceeds of the new PRN fund would be distributed by an independent body that should include cross-sector industry members to achieve desired outcomes – a precedent model of this is ENTRUST for the Landfill Tax.

6. All reprocessors and exporters of packaging waste must be obligated to be part of the system to ensure we measure the true recycling rates. Also, PERNs should be modified, not least to remove their inherent advantage over PRNs.


Lord Deben, who organised the meeting through his Sancroft consultancy, said he hoped the six “attributes” would mean the PRN system could become “a responsive, progressive, recycling price mechanism that can focus funds to establish a more effective domestic scheme fit for the future”.

Steve Lee

Steve Lee, former chief executive of CIWM, will facilitated the meetings; he has recently highlighted the importance of recycled content in packaging

Facilitator of the meetings, Steve Lee has strong views on recycling and regulation. He suggested last week that “intervention and regulation is needed .. in the Resources and Waste Strategy”. Referring in particular to the government’s stance on coffee cups he said: “Voluntary measures are coming thick and fast just now. Trouble is … they’re often only a partial fix, they vary tremendously, they can be ditched later and there are inevitable free-riders choosing not to act.”

Mr Lee also took a swipe last week at news of the retailer Lidl’s announcement of its new plastic waste reduction strategy in the UK. Mr Lee described this as a “welcome pledge” but said that recycl“able” is not the same as recycl“ed”.

Meeting dates

Meeting dates are: De minimis (small businesses potentially affected), 12th March; Compliance schemes, 13th March; Reprocessors, 16th March; Waste management companies, 19th March Packaging supply chain (including manufacturers, retailers, packaging converters), 20th March; and Local authorities, 23rd March.


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