23 July 2019 by Joshua Doherty

Packaging target ‘optimism’ despite plastic and aluminium concerns

Provisional packaging data for the second quarter of 2019 has suggested that most materials remain on track to meet recycling targets, but concerns remain over plastic and aluminium.

The figures, published late yesterday (July 22) on the National Packaging Waste Database, give an indication of how much packaging waste was recycled or exported between April and June 2019.

Packaging recycling data has been published by the Environment Agency

While still provisional until the final data is published by the Environment Agency, the figures show that the paper, steel and wood markets are all performing well and on track to meet the 2019 targets.

There was also some recovery in the aluminium markets, with the provisional data showing a 15% jump from the previous quarter, which has been put down to the market responding to the high value of the packaging recovery note (PRN).

The provisional data suggests that most materials are on target

For plastics, a 14% rise from the previous quarter has meant it is close to being on track for reaching its 2019 target, but concerns have been raised that the level of recycling taking place still remains below the level needed to meet the year-end target.

Tightening export markets are among the factors to have contributed to a squeeze on plastic packaging recycling, which caused a spike in the value of PRNs for the material. Despite cooling in recent weeks the plastic PRN price reached a high of £450 in June, prompting a flurry of activity in the market.

PRNs

Martin Trigg-Knight, packaging compliance scheme manager at Clarity Environmental, explained that while it has been a “strong quarter” for some materials, concerns remain over aluminium and plastics.

“The PRN system does appear to be increasing recycling rates in the face of substantially diminished export markets, but concerns remain as to whether exports will continue at current levels to the end of the year.”

Martin Trigg-Knight, Clarity Environmental

“Q2 data for plastic continues to be a cause for concern. Despite moving towards the 2019 target, the production is noticeably less than 2018 Q1 and Q2 figures. Circa 14,000 tonnes more plastic has been reprocessed in the UK in Q2 compared with last year, but this has not made up for the shortfall in exports.

“The PRN system does appear to be increasing recycling rates in the face of substantially diminished export markets, but concerns remain as to whether exports will continue at current levels to the end of the year,” he commented.

Aluminium

On aluminium, Mr Trigg-Knight added: “Aluminium production is falling short of where it needs to be currently in the year, however Q2 figures were strong, suggesting the PRN production is responding to historically high prices.”

However, the scheme manager at Clarity added that it had been a “strong quarter” for paper, wood and steel and has shown that the PRN system has been working smoothly in many sectors.

Another way of analysing the figures would be to compare the provisional figures for 2019 with those from the previous period. This shows that most materials have reacted well to increased targets but underlines previously expressed concerns around plastics, with the total volume of material collected having dropped.

Most materials also show an increase in collection rates when compared with the same period last year

With most materials recording a rise from the both Q1 2019 and the same period last year, the results have largely been described as positive.

Questions

Speaking to letsrecycle.com, Andrew Letham, operations manager at The Environment Exchange, the PRN trading platform, suggested that the majority of 2019 targets now look “very achievable” after the release of the data.

“Question marks remain over the state of the Plastic and Aluminium markets which both remain undersupplied in-year…”

Andrew Letham, T2E

“The Q2 supply data was largely positive with strong results in Paper, Wood, Glass and Steel making the overall recycling target look very achievable with the price of Paper and Wood softening as a result on the t2e trading platform,” he explained.

“Question marks remain over the state of the Plastic and Aluminium markets which both remain undersupplied in-year as recycling rates didn’t hit the heights suggested in some quarters. Some surprises can still be expected with obligations still set to grow across all materials with some large companies still not listed on the NPWD.”

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