January packaging waste data reports slow start for some materials

The latest packaging waste data has provided the first insight into material production in 2021, with mixed results reported across the grades.

The figures, released by the Environment Agency on the NPWD  earlier this month, report on the amount of packaging waste that has been recycled or exported in January. Whilst the data must be treated with caution, as it is often incomplete at this time of the year, it can provide a useful comparison against figures from the same period in 2020.

Some materials have reported higher production this year than the same month in 2020, but with targets for most grades having increased for the 2021 compliance year, production levels for most materials are not currently at the required levels needed to meet targets without carry over.

Paper is one grade that has had a positive start to the year, with over 250,000 tonnes reported in January. This is 69,774 more than the same month last year. With its annual target increasing from 75 in 2020 To 79 in 2021, paper will need to continue returning similar rates of production this year.

The positive production data for paper is thought to have been influenced by the continued e-commerce boom and Christmas demand for delivery, which is said to be affecting the cardboard market at large. With complaints of paper shortages reported, there has been speculation of pre-Christmas stockpiling to protect against global trade disruptions.

Plastic also reported a 10% increase in production compared to January 2020, with over 54,000 tonnes returned. However, plastic is behind where it needs to be before we factor in the carry over.

Wood is in a stronger position compared to last year, with over 12,932 tonnes reported. This is over double the volume of January 2020. Whilst currently behind where it needs to be, wood usually sees tonnage added in the quarterly data. The target for wood has been reduced from 48% To 35%, with expectation from the industry that the UK should meet this comfortably.

Both glass aggregate and remelt production figures are below those reported in January 2020. This could be a direct result of the UK lockdown, which has continued to affect the hospitality sector.

"Whilst we do not yet have the confirmed carry over, it is likely that some grades are starting the compliance year with healthy surplus, giving a head start on progress to targets. We look forward to reviewing the interim Q4 data when it is released as it will provide a better picture of the starting point for 2021.”"

Martin Trigg Knight, Head of Packaging at Clarity Environmental

Martin Trigg Knight, Head of Packaging at Clarity Environmental, said of the first data report of 2021:

“We were aware of concerns about the impacts of Brexit on exports at the close of last year, and reports that some materials were held back from trading as a result. This, together with short term uncertainty caused by continued lockdown in the UK, could be affecting the data for this first month. Whilst we do not yet have the confirmed carry over, it is likely that some grades are starting the compliance year with healthy surplus, giving a head start on progress to targets. We look forward to reviewing the interim Q4 data when it is released as it will provide a better picture of the starting point for 2021.”

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