Q3 packaging data ‘reassuring’, specialists say

Provisional packaging data published by the Environment Agency has been welcomed by compliance specialists, who say targets now look very likely to be met.  

Published this week, the data is based on “dynamic reports on the current live data held in National Packaging Waste Database” and is not necessarily the same as the official published Agency figures, which will arrive later this month.

The figures show that when the provisional Q3 (July-August 2020) data is taken into account, most materials are on track to hit targets in 2020, with paper already achieving nearly 98% of its target for 2020. And, the aluminium sector has reported that this year’s target has been met.


One of the most improved materials was wood, for which more than twice as many PRNs were issued than in Q1. However, it is still 10% below the amount recorded in Q3 2019.

The majority of this (122,838) came from municipal sources, thought to be down to the fact that HWRC tonnages were steadily rising and people were clearing out their houses.

Glass other recorded the best figures when compared with the same period last year, with the 155,195 recorded more than 50% higher than for 2019. This is thought to be down to the ‘eat out to help out’ scheme boosting glass from the hospitality sector.

Despite all materials except for glass recording falls when compared with last year’s figures, the data has still been welcomed by compliance specialists, and continues on from strong data recorded earlier in the year.


The packaging sector seems to have not been affected by the pandemic, the data shows

Sandeep Attwal, procurement manager at Ecosurety, said it is “reassuring to see that the UK is on track to hit targets. 

Ms Attwal said: “The paper and wood market has had a very strong quarter 3 compensating for the weaknesses during lockdown. The ‘eat out to help out’ scheme seems to have contributed to the increase in glass recycling during Q3. We expect a large carry out of December PRNs into 2021, which may help offset the uncertainty of next year.”  


Ash Clay, procurement leader at Comply Direct, said: “The Q3 recycling data on the whole has indicated positive progress for all materials, and seems to have re-enforced the already positive releases of data we have seen this year. With it seeming likely the UK may hit its recycling targets once again this year, all eyes turn to the regulatory body for more information regarding next year’s targets so all stakeholders can gauge a true measure of the task ahead.” 


Despite concerns that the lockdown restrictions could impact waste streams, the data suggests that the packaging sector has been unaffected with regard to hitting targets. 

When the Q2 data was released in July (see letsrecycle.com story), there were concerns that the fallout from the pandemic and recession could hit the following quarter’s data, but this doesn’t seem to have been the case.

“Most grades look likely to end the year comfortably on target and will go into next year with positive carry over tonnage”

Martin Trigg-Knight, Clarity Environmental

While further restrictions in Q4 could impact this, Martin Trigg-Knight, head of packaging at Clarity Environmental, told letsrecycle.com that he feels targets will be comfortably met and will help next year’s markets. 

“Given the continued impact of the Covid-19 pandemic both in the UK and overseas, we have remained cautious. And while it is possible that we will see waste collections and export facilities impacted by remaining restrictions across the UK, most grades look likely to end the year comfortably on target and will go into the 2021 compliance year with positive carry over tonnage,” he said.  

PRN prices 

Mr Trigg-Knight added: “PRN prices for many grades have responded, softening off throughout the quarter. 

“Paper has had its strongest production quarter of the year so far – a likely result of the shift in consumer habits, which has seen a rise in e-commerce. With other grades also performing well this year, it is likely there will be no shortage in availability to fulfil the General Recycling obligation and we are seeing prices soften for 2020 paper PRNs as a result. 


David Daw, project analyst at Valpak, told letsrecycle.com that the provisional Q3 reprocessing figures highlighted the significant progressmade towards the UK achieving the 2020 compliance targets, adding that it was “particularly pleasing” to see an increase in domestic plastic reprocessing. 

“Even if the UK experiences a poor Q4 for recycling it is likely that there should be ample carry forward evidence available to provide a good foundation for 2021 which is loaded with uncertainty,” he said.    

Mr Daw added: “Due to the continued Covid-19 impact on packaging use which is highlighted in the latest PackFlow reports (see letsrecycle.com story), new recycling targets which are yet to be confirmed and the Brexit effect on movement of materials for the export markets are all likely to be significant issues.   

The PRN market though should start with lower price points than it did at the beginning of 2020 and to maintain a degree stability it is important that all reprocessors and exporters ensure they get themselves re-accredited now to enable issuing of PRNs from the start of the year.


Referencing the data released by the Environment Agency, aluminium packaging recycling rates have officially exceeded their 2020 target with three months of the year still remaining, the sector reported.

It noted that Q3 saw 42,265 tonnes of aluminium packaging collected for recycling, an increase of 41% compared to the same period in 2019 and 4% higher than the previous quarter in 2020 (40,653). “To date in 2020, 119,198 tonnes of aluminium packaging has been collected for recycling – an increase of 48% compared to the same period in 2019.

“With a net annual requirement of 113,390 tonnes, taking into consideration a 2019 carry-in of 7,746 tonnes, this means that aluminium packaging recycling rates have already exceeded 2020 targets by more than 5%. Aluminium packaging collected through kerbside, bring and on-the-go systems totalled 78,685 tonnes (an increase of 28% compared to 2019), while tonnage recovered from incinerator bottom ash (IBA) more than doubled (from 19,139 in 2019 to 40,513 in 2020).”

Rick Hindley, executive director at Alupro, commented: “The UK’s PRN data for Q3 shows an astonishing year-on-year increase among separately collected aluminium packaging, other local protocol fractions and aluminium packaging recovered from IBA. I’m delighted that rates have surpassed their target with three months of the year still remaining!

“Following the UK’s COVID-19 lockdown in March and resulting spike in home working, it’s great to see the results of the nation’s continued commitment to recycling its aluminium packaging. This, alongside greater public awareness of the benefits of recycling, have combined to drive the highest aluminium packaging recycling rate ever reporte

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