The revenue generated from the UK’s packaging recovery note (PRN) system jumped to £130 million in the 2018 compliance year, an increase of more than £50 million from 2017.
This meant that the figures – which include sums generated from export PRNs (PERNs) – were the highest ever noted since the recording of revenue began on the government’s National Waste Packaging Database began in 2007.
The figures and spending/support categories were released by the Environment Agency at the end of April, and show the breakdown of revenue for each material, and how this was spent.
Of particular note is plastics, which for the 2018 compliance year made up more than £59 million (45%) of the total figure, the highest revenue generating material.
This was made up of £36.9 million from the export market, and £22.4 million from domestic reprocessing. This shows an increase of £5 million and £7 million respectively for the two categories when compared with 2017.
The plastic PRN market, with tonnages of material for recycling under pressure due to a squeeze in export markets, saw plastic trading at a high of £105 in December 2018, but average was around £65 throughout the year. In 2017, they peaked at £85 but averaged around the £40 mark (see letsrecycle.com prices)
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, with obligated producers paying compliance schemes to collect evidence.
The record high figures for obligated producers in 2018 also coincides with consultations on the reform of the system, with expectation of a move towards ‘full-cost recovery’, which would see producers potential pay a higher cost for the recycling of their products.
Estimates suggest that currently, the packaging waste system only covers the cost of around 10% of the overall cost of recycling packaging products. Consultations are now underway for a new UK system to replace or modify the existing PRN regime and to fund up to 100% of collection and recycling costs for packaging.
Government has suggested that some of its proposed reforms could make producers responsible for between £500 million- £1 billion of the costs of recovering packaging placed on the market.