Industry calls for changes to the PRN system

Concerns about the stability and transparency of the packaging recovery note (PRN) system have been raised by waste industry members in responses to a government consultation.

Defra has published a summary of responses to its survey, released earlier this year, which will help underpin a review of the waste plastic packaging target, and the actions needed to ensure the household waste recycling target is met.

Published responses to the consultation argued that high PRN prices attract fraud, leading to market distortion and making advance budgeting ‘impossible’ for reprocessors or producers. Calls to increase the current quarterly packaging recycling data to monthly were reiterated, which some believe would help reduce sharp rises and falls in PRN prices, and for more transparency over where funding from PRNs is used.

Clarity Environmental’s Commercial Manager, Chris Taylor, agrees that this approach would benefit the system: “Publishing monthly recycling and export data would certainly smooth over the vast peaks and troughs that we’ve seen as a result of the quarterly figures. It would also allow a more steady trade throughout the year and provide well-needed indicators to producers, reprocessors, exporters and compliance schemes.”

Other responses to the survey included calls for current 2017 targets to be extended until 2020, which has been said would take the heat and volatility out of the system, and for a default minimum value for plastic PRNs of £20 per tonne to be considered for 2016 and 2017, with the floor price reset at the start of each year. However, Chris was cautious of this view: “A minimum price for plastic could set a dangerous precedent. I would be interested to know how the sum of £20 as a minimum has been reached and how reprocessors and exporters of other grades of packaging would react to their counterparts in the plastic industry commanding a guaranteed minimum return.”

The current plastics packaging target is 52% for 2016 and is set to rise to 57% in 2017, despite concerns raised by the Plastic Flow report last year. Consultation responses suggested that amending the target to reflect the report would allow the UK to meet EU packaging targets comfortably, without the need to place an additional cost burden on producers. However, some added that reducing the UK plastics target could make it a greater challenge to meet any sharp rise in the EU Directive target.

A total of 53 responses were received to the two month consultation, and overall consultees were said to have responded positively to the government’s proposed regulatory changes. The corresponding regulations will now be laid before Parliament for implementation from 1st January 2016.

Clarity has been buying and selling packaging recovery notes (PRNs) since our business started in 2002. We are now one of the largest and most experienced open market traders of PRNs. To talk to our team about buying or selling any grade of packaging recovery note (PRN), contact our team on 0845 129 7177.

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