Revenue from the UK’s packaging recovery note (PRN) system totalled over £50 million in 2016, figures published by the Environment Agency this week suggest.
This would suggest that the income from PRNs fell when compared to the previous year – 2015 – when a reported total of £64.2 million was generated through the PRN system.
The figures indicate that plastic was the material generating the greatest proportion of PRN revenue for 2016, with over £8 million raised through domestic reprocessing, and over £13 million through the exports of plastic for recycling overseas, totalling more than £21 million overall.
Plastic PRNs were valued at close to £45 in the early months of 2016 as some had feared that the sector could struggle to meet what was seen as a ‘challenging’ target of 49% for the year. However, a strong performance throughout the year saw the price gradually decline into the final quarter.
Under the PRN system, certificates of recycling evidence, known as packaging waste recovery notes, are purchased by those in the packaging supply chain to show that they have met their obligations to fund the recycling and recovery of packaging waste as required by the UK Packaging Waste Regulations.
PRNs are sold on an open market which mean that prices fluctuate according to supply and demand.
The figures also offer a breakdown of how the money raised through the PRN system has been spent, including investment in infrastructure and reprocessing capacity, funding of collections, developing new markets and communications to increase recycling.
Infrastructure and capacity development are the primary avenue for investment from PRN revenues, according to the figures, with a total of more than £23 million – almost half of the overall sum raised through the PRN system in 2016 – whilst funding for collections totalled over £10 million. Development of communications strategies totalled just over £1 million, the figures suggest.
However, commenting on the figures, Phil Conran, director at environmental consultancy 360 Environmental, questioned the veracity of the data, in particular given reported investment in infrastructure by exporters of material.
He said: “It is difficult to understand how exporters can justify spend against infrastructure or future investment and the difference between paper and plastic is particularly noticeable in this regard.
“Pretty much zero spend on infrastructure for paper, but 31% for plastics exporters. However, given that there is no auditing of these returns and that there is no legal accuracy requirement, it is no real surprise that whilst the totals may reflect revenue, the splits are largely fictitious.”