4 August 2016 by Tom Goulding

WRAP revises paper and wood packaging forecasts

Long-awaited estimates for the amount of paper and wood packaging likely to be recycled by 2020 have been published by WRAP today (4 August).

The Wood Flow and Paper & Card Flow reports, which have been delivered in partnership with compliance scheme Valpak, provide forecasts on how much material has been placed on the market (POM) and will be recycled in the UK for the period 2014-2020.

cereal boxes

The amount of paper and card packaging placed on the market in 2014 has been underestimated

It follows prior packaging flow reports produced by Valpak and WRAP, including one for plastics packaging which found that more of the material had been recycled than previously thought – leading to a reduction in the annual target.

Findings from the new research suggest that the amount of paper and card packaging placed on the market in 2014 stood at 4,749,000 tonnes – an increase of 862,000 tonnes from the estimated current figure.

The estimate was corroborated by data from the CPI combined with estimations of empty imported packaging. Non-obligated or unregistered paper and card accounted for 21% of material placed on the market in 2014 – higher than any other packaging material.

The upward revision means that the UK’s recycling performance for paper and card packaging in 2014 is lower than previously thought. The country would have achieved a 73% recycling rate for that year if the revised POM figure is used, compared to a current rate of 90%.

On wood, Valpak’s report similarly notes that the amount of packaging POM has also been underestimated. The project predicts 1,310,000 tonnes placed on the market – an increase of 276,000 tonnes on the current figure.

This means that the UK would have achieved a 31% recycling rate for wood packaging in 2014 if the revised figures are used, against the current estimate of 40%.

Paper and card packaging recycling rate projections to 2020

Paper and card packaging recycling rate projections to 2020


However, the projected drop in recycling across both materials is unlikely to have a knock-on effect for the packaging recycling sector – with the UK still on course to meet EU Directive targets in four years’ time.

Based on projected POM – and the growth in accredited recycling – the overall paper and card packaging rate could rise as high as 85% by 2020, comfortably ahead of the 60% EU target currently in place.

And, while the wood packaging POM suggests that wood recycling performance is likely to decline to 24% in 2020, this is still above the EU’s 15% target.

Wood recycling rate projections 2014 to 2020

Wood recycling rate projections 2014 to 2020


In spite of this, Valpak and WRAP have recommended options to improve packaging recycling rates across both material streams.

The Paper & Card Flow report recommends that ‘mixed paper’ protocol is reviewed. The amount of packaging that counted from mixed paper – which makes up a significant fraction of the household waste stream – was amended up from 12.5% to 23% earlier this year, and WRAP suggests this could be looked at again with ‘further sampling’.

And, to capture unregistered tonnages, the report proposes reintroducing a service provider clause which would obligate wholesalers to report packaging captured by ‘small’ organisations.

Meanwhile for wood, the Flow report recommends that a greater number of wood recyclers should become accredited for all recycling activities to increase the number of domestic and export PRNs generated.

It adds that there is a ‘difference’ between the obligated wood producers listed on the National Packaging Waste Database (NPWD) compared to industry databases – meaning there are some companies of ‘sufficient size by turnover and core business activities’ which should be registered.

The report recommends increasing the amount of packaging which can be counted in the mixed paper stream

The report recommends increasing the amount of packaging which can be counted in the mixed paper stream

The report concludes: “A factor which could help wood packaging meet any future circular economy recycling targets is re-use. As there is a significant quantity of wood pallets and other items such as wooden barrels being re-used, this should be investigated to identify the contribution this could make to future targets.”


A further report – the Plastics Spatial Flow – has also been published by WRAP today which shows where in the UK packaging and non-packaging plastic is arising.

The document, produced on behalf of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, aims to help potential investors and local authorities to better understand where the opportunities are.

It shows that 1.9 million tonnes of plastic is currently going to residual treatment and not subject to PFI contracts – meaning it could be used as feedstock for mechanical plastics recycling or ‘polymer cracking’ technologies.

Related Links

Paper & Card Flow

Wood Flow

Plastics Spatial Flow


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