9 March 2018 by Elizabeth Slow

National Audit Office to review PRN system

The National Audit Office (NAO) has announced a review into packaging recycling obligations – commonly known as the PRN system.

The review, announced today (9 March) will assess the effectiveness of the PRN scheme, including whether Government has had good oversight of the scheme’s performance against its objectives, NAO states.

And, it will look at whether government has taken a “robust approach” to preventing fraud and non-compliance.


The glass sector is one which has seen prosecutions over PRN fraud

Packaging recycling obligations apply to all companies that handle a certain amount of packaging each year, and require companies to demonstrate that they have recycled a portion of that packaging.

Companies comply by buying packaging recovery notes (PRN) from reprocessing companies in the UK, or from companies exporting waste for recycling abroad.

There have been a number of references to fraud within the PRN system over the past 20 years including the Environment Agency accusing some in the wood sector of counting kitchen unit doors as packaging through to WRAP raising concerns of fraud in the plastics sector.


Recently, the PRN system has come under scrutiny, particularly in regards to export PRNs, with calls for government to better support domestic reprocessing of materials (see letsrecycle.com story). The current system can see the evidence of recycling notes issued on plastics exported or reprocessed in the UK with claims that exported material has an advantage as the PRN also includes any waste within the plastics, although under TFS rules waste should not be being exported.

Proposals by the Valpak compliance scheme for modifications to the PRN system have won support from many within the packaging waste sector although there are some in the sector who would like to see substantial changes to the system.


Last month, letsrecycle.com reported, that in a widely distributed letter, WRAP chief executive Marcus Gover revealed that PRN changes are likely (see letsrecycle.com story). The letter suggests there is “widespread support” for changes to the current packaging producer responsibility regime.

And, one action proposed by WRAP’s chief executive in his strategy letter is to encourage retailers and manufacturers to “use recycled plastic in their packaging and products where possible”.

The launch of the NAO study has been widely expected in the sector and will contribute to the broad debate over the PRN system as numerous get involved with discussions about it ahead of the forthcoming Resources and Waste Strategy.


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