Industry refutes Defra packaging recovery figures

Packaging compliance experts have warned of the “huge discrepancies” that exist between Defra statistics on packaging recovery last year and industry figures.

While Defra's statistics appear to show that the UK failed its glass recycling target in 2006, industry believes it narrowly achieved the target.


” In 2006, the UK met its overall packaging recovery target, overall recycling target and each material-specific recycling target with the exception of glass. “
– Defra

The figures in question, published by Defra last month (see letsrecycle.com story), concern the amount of packaging waste recovery and recycling that was carried out last year within the packaging producer responsibility system.

Packaging waste compliance schemes have told letsrecycle.com that the figures published by Defra do not match those available through the National Packaging Waste Database, which is run by the Environment Agency.

The Database was set up with the approval of industry and Defra to improve the accuracy of data within packaging producer responsibility.

The importance of data being as accurate as possible is paramount since the negotiation of prices for packaging recycling evidence – known as PRNs – is heavily reliant on knowing how much recycling is needed to hit the UK targets.

But in some cases, the differences compared to Defra's published figures run into the hundreds of thousands of tonnes.

From its figures, Defra has said that last year the UK did not meet its glass packaging recycling targets, telling letsrecycle.com: “In 2006, the UK met its overall packaging recovery target, overall recycling target and each material-specific recycling target with the exception of glass.”


” Why are Defra releasing figures that are so inaccurate? The whole purpose of this Database was to have timely, accurate data. “
– Peter Gaffney, Wastepack

Glass
Defra's figures reported on March 29, 2007 suggest that the UK has failed its glass obligations by as much as 163,099 tonnes (about 12%).

However, figures available to industry through the National Packaging Waste Database suggest the UK complied on glass in 2006, with 58,929 tonnes to spare (4.4%).

Packaging waste compliance schemes – bodies set up to purchase recycling evidence on behalf of packaging manufacturers and importers – have also highlighted the fact that there are still dozens of reprocessors not included within last year's statistics published by Defra – including reprocessors that have not yet submitted data from the first quarter of 2006.

Peter Gaffney, a director of the packaging compliance scheme Wastepack, said: “Why are Defra releasing figures that are so inaccurate? The whole purpose of this Database was to have timely, accurate data. It does not help to be using two different sets of figures.”

Mr Gaffney said that if the UK had not complied with the glass target in 2006, as Defra's figures suggested, the price of glass PRNs would have been far higher than they were last year.

The Wastepack director said he would be taking the issue to the next meeting of COSWIG, the compliance schemes' working group.

Related links:

Defra: Packaging producer responsibility

National Packaging Waste Database

Other compliance schemes have suggested that it could be time for a separate body to manage data, a proposal Defra has said it is considering (see letsrecycle.com story).

One compliance scheme manager, who did not wish to be named, said: “The whole thing needs to be taken away from government control. Isn't it now time for an independent body to oversee the data – and also the otherwise excellent PRN system?”

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