26 June 2020 by Joshua Doherty

Reprocessors ‘join forces’ to urge PRN reform

Yorkshire-based plastic recycling company Bright Green Plastics has “joined forces” with other reprocessing firms to call for an “overhaul” of the packaging recovery note (PRN) system.  

Steve Spencer (L) has hit out at the current PRN system

The company has asked Yvette Cooper, the Labour MP for Pontefract and Castleford, to raise the issue in parliament as it feels the system in its current form could “jeopardise the future of the recycling industry”. 

Yvette Cooper has been asked by the group to lead an urgent review of the PRN system and methods used to collate and report the data, with a view to raising this in parliament. They ask that she also talk generally about the future of plastic recycling in the UK and the impact of low virgin plastic prices on the plastic tax. 

Bright Green Plastics has joined with Aylesbury Granulation Services, UNTHA UK and plastics recycling specialist Bernard Chase, the former managing director of Chase Plastics, to make the call.  

Oil prices 

In a statement, Bright Green said the recent  drop in oil prices has dealt “another body blow” to the plastics reprocessing industry as “manufacturers are choosing to purchase virgin plastic over more expensive recycled plastics”. 

The group have urged Labour MP Yvette Cooper to raise the issue in parliament (picture: Shutterstock)

The statement says the basic rules of economics would suggest that a fall in the oil prices would see a drop in plastic material prices across the entire industry, making for a level playing field, particularly as the price of plastic PRNs have recently dropped. 

However, it says “the outdated compliance system is causing the industry major problems, largely due to loopholes in the system being abused along with the issue of the distorted ‘recycling’ data it produces”. 

Data 

Steve Spencer, managing director at Bright Green Plastics says the plastic PRN prices has fallen as data suggests targets are being hit, which he says is “highly questionable”. 

“Due to the pandemic, UK reprocessors have been operating at a reduced capacity in recent months, and with suppliers and customers on lockdown, levels of material for export and reprocessing have been massively reduced,” Mr Spencer said.  

He added: “Yet the data says that PRNs have been produced at a higher rate than this time last year. How is this possible?” 

Commercial viability 

Marcus Brew, managing director of UNTHA UK, said: “The falling price of virgin plastic product has of course impacted on demand for recycled plastics, and many operators are now worried about the commercial viability of their organisations 

There will of course be repercussions throughout the supply chain, for as long as the price of this commodity remains low. However, while a degree of caution is understandable – and indeed wise – we need to look at the bigger picture.” 

‘Abuse’  

The companies claim that recovery notes are “open to abuse from a minority of exporters and traders”, which has led to a “distorted marketplace”.   

The group added that the falling PRN value has not led to a reduction in the price of recyclable plastic as a result.

Mr Spencer of Bright Green Plastics says one reason for this is that the industry doesn’t believe the data – we all know the PRN system is flawed and the so called targets are simply a box ticking exercise”. 

Review 

Susan Staff, commercial manager at Aylesbury Granulation Services, which processes a wide range of rigid plastics for use in future manufacturing, supports the drive for an urgent review.

“Falling virgin plastic prices and distortions caused by the PERN system are making for a very challenging marketplace for our industry”

Susan Staff, Aylesbury Granulation Services

She said: “The current pandemic, falling virgin plastic prices and distortions caused by the PERN system combined is making for a very challenging marketplace for our industry; the cost of raw waste is too high versus the extremely low value of finished product.

“It has long been my opinion that the fixation with packaging is too short sighted.  As a country we should concentrate our efforts on keeping all good quality recyclable plastic in the UK and put pressure on manufacturers to use recycled material whenever and wherever possible.”

To further support the drive, Bright Green Plastics has generated a Change.org petition, calling on the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to urgently review the PRN system. This can be seen here.

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