Packaging targets to remain broadly the same

By Caelia Quinault 

Packaging recycling targets will remain flat for the next two years with the exception of material-specific targets for steel and plastics, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs announced today (October 26).

The Department has published targets for 2011 and 2012 which are the same as those set for 2010 – with only plastics and steel rising, from 29% to 32% and from 69% to 71% respectively (see table below).

Packaging Recycling Targets

Material  2011 (%)  2012 (%)
Paper/card  69.5  69.5 
Glass 81  81 
Aluminium  40  40 
Steel  71  71 
Plastic  32  32 
Wood  22  22 
Total Recycling  68.1  68.1 
Total Recovery  74  74 
Source: Defra

Defra explained that these were the levels required for the UK to meet its “minimum” EU Packaging Waste Directive targets and that longer-term targets would be set as part of its ongoing waste policy review.

In addition, the government is introducing technical changes which are intended to clarify and update the Packaging Waste Regulations. They include two deregulatory changes, one to remove the requirement for independent audit, the other which allows smaller businesses to use a more simple mechanism to calculate their obligation, which will save industry an estimated £285,000-£371,000 annually.

The long-awaited announcements came as the department published responses to its consultation on ‘Implementing the Packaging Strategy: Targets, Transparency and Technical Changes' , which was launched in March 2010 (see story). The consultation contained ambitious proposals to increase packaging targets incrementally for 10 years but it is understood that, in the current economic climate, Defra was under pressure from the Department for Business to water these down.

Further proposals contained in the consultation, such as plans to split glass recycling targets by the material's end use from 2011, have also been put on hold and will be now considered as part of the government's ongoing waste policy review. This is despite 43 respondents to the consultation being in favour of the proposal, compared to just 11 who were against it.

In a statement, Defra said: “Packaging recycling targets for 2011 and 2012 were published today subject to Parliamentary approval. The targets will ensure that the UK continues to meet EU Directive targets and are similar to the targets for the last two years. Targets beyond 2012 will be set following the Waste Review, the findings of which are due to be published in Spring 2011.”


Today's announcement sets out packaging recycling targets for businesses for 2011 and 2012
Today’s announcement sets out packaging recycling targets for businesses for 2011 and 2012
The rise in the plastics recycling target is particularly notable as the 32% proposed is even higher than that contained in the original consultation and because industry has expressed concerns over its ability to meet rising targets in this area.

Explaining its reasoning for raising the target, Defra said: “Using the most recent obligated tonnage data for plastic, the current 29% UK business target would not be enough to meet the minimum EU target for plastic packaging recycling (22.5%) in future years. Therefore we have decided to raise the business targets to 32% for 2011 and 2012. It is hoped that this will give the UK a small safety margin.”

The Department added that the proposal to split the plastic recycling targets from 2013 to encourage the recycling of less widely recycled plastics would be considered again as part of its waste review.


Similarly, for steel, the department said it may be “at risk” of non-compliance with EU minimum metals recycling targets if UK business targets were kept at their 2010 levels.

It said: “Therefore, the targets for 2011 and 2012 will be set at 71% to minimise the risk of infraction.”


Under the Producer Responsibility (Packaging Waste) Regulations, packaging producers are set targets each year for the recycling and recovery of waste packaging, known as business targets. To meet these they must pay towards the cost of recycling waste packaging by buying recycling evidence notes, known as PRNs.

The regulations are designed to ensure the UK meets its European targets to recycle packaging under the Packaging Waste Directive, which requires that all member states recover a minimum of 60% of all packaging waste by 31 December 2008 (of which 55%  must be recycled) and maintain performance thereafter. The business targtes are higher that the European targets as small companies or those who put a small amount of packaging on the market are exempt and others have to pick up the shortfall.

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