PRN system should be retained, recommends Defra

A government review of the packaging recovery note (PRN) system in the UK has recommended that the current system is retained.

The review by the Department for Environment and Rural Affairs was published on 7 July 2017.

The Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging Waste) Regulations are in place to ensure that the UK meets annual recycling and recovery targets required by the Packaging Directive. They impose obligations on producers of packaging to recover and recycle packaging waste.

The regulations are subject to regular and ongoing review. The report notes that three amendments have been made to the regulations since 2012:

  • In 2013, as part of the Red Tape Challenge review, the government amended the compliance reporting systems to relieve administrative burden on businesses.
  • In 2014 and 2015, the glass and plastic packaging targets were reduced in response to the market volatility and to more accurately reflect the market.
  • In 2016 the targets for paper, steel, aluminium and wood and overall recycling/recovery rates were increased to ensure continued compliance with the Packaging Directive.

The government says that the latest review has found that the Regulations continue to ensure that the UK meets the requirements of the Packaging Directive and at a relatively low cost to businesses.  A comparison of compliance costs between the UK and some of the largest Member States within the document shows that the UK has one of the lowest cost systems in terms of the cost of compliance

The review has been sent to the government’s Regulatory Policy Committee, which provides external, independent scrutiny of regulatory and deregulatory proposals. The RPC gave it a green rating of “fit for purpose”, but did note that Defra could have “provided more detail to support the Department’s claim that there were no unintended consequences from the regulations.” It also stated that the review would have benefited further from more comparative analysis of the impact of the measure in other EU member states.

Defra says that the current Regulations ensure that the UK meets the required packaging recycling and recovery targets and is expected to do so at least until our exit from the EU, and possibly after this time. Whilst the review indicates that the current system will remain until 2020, there is no mention of what may happen after Britain leaves the EU.

Commenting on the announcement, Chris Taylor, Clarity Environmental Commercial Manager, said: “We welcome the results of this review, which gives us some certainty for the immediate future. The current UK PRN system is not perfect; It can be a difficult process to understand and is often criticised for a lack of transparency on where the revenue is being spent. But our recycling system comes at the lowest cost to businesses, compared to many other EU countries, and amendments in recent years, most notably to the packaging targets, are helping to drive increased recycling levels.

"There is, however, a note of caution. With the recommendation to retain the current system only applying until 2020, we hope that any decisions following our exit from the EU are the best for businesses and the environment, continuing to drive increased recycling without placing unnecessary costs on producers.”

PRN system explained

Businesses that handle packaging must meet their packaging obligation under the Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging Waste) Regulations by procuring recycling evidence notes known as PRNs (packaging waste recovery notes). The PRN system enables packaging producers to carry out their obligations to recycle packaging waste through the purchasing of PRNs and PERNs (packaging waste export recovery notes). This provides evidence of the recovery or recycling being carried out, and is a substitute for businesses meeting their obligation through their own recycling efforts. You can read more about the system on our PRN trading pages.

Procure PRNs from our market leading team

Whether you are looking to buy or sell PRNs, or if you are a packaging compliance scheme or direct registrant obligated under the Producer Responsibility (Packaging Waste) Regulations, Clarity's market-leading team can offer flexible trading options for Packaging Recovery Note (PRNs). Contact our team on 0845 129 7177 for more information about the PRN services we an provide.

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