Packaging Recovery Notes Explained



What are packaging recovery notes?
What are PRNs used for?
How does the PRN system work?
The PRN compliance calendar
Frequently asked questions

What are packaging recovery notes?

PRN stands for Packaging Recovery Notes. They are certificated evidence that proves a tonne of packaging waste has been recovered and reprocessed or exported for reprocessing, and acts as a substitute for businesses meeting their obligation through their own recycling efforts.

Under the Packaging Waste Regulations, businesses that handle packaging must finance the recovery and recycling of packaging materials in proportion to the amount they have placed on the market.

What are PRNs used for?

PRNs are used by obligated packaging producers to comply with their yearly packaging obligation.

The PRN system is used by the government to fund further investment into UK recycling infrastructure, encourage collection of packaging material and to subsidise the costs of reprocessing and exporting packaging.

How does the PRN system work?

A PRN is created when 1 tonne of UK sourced packaging material is reprocessed by an accredited UK recycler and a PERN (Packaging Export Recovery Note) is created when 1 tonne of exported UK packaging reaches its end destination and is recycled there.

Obligated businesses who meet the threshold must meet their packaging recovery and recycling obligations by purchasing the required number of PRNs from accredited reprocessors or exporters.

The PRN compliance calendar

Companies which meet the threshold for packaging compliance must submit their data and purchase the PRNs they require to comply on a yearly basis – please see the important dates relating to PRNs and packaging compliance on a yearly basis:


7th April – EA Direct Registration Deadline

The deadline for all Direct Registrants to be fully registered and have submitted their data with the Environment Agency for the current compliance year.

If you register after this date, you will have to pay the EA directly for a late registration fee.


1st December – December tonnage (transitional) market opens

PRNs produced throughout December can be used to comply for either the current compliance year or held for use in the upcoming compliance year.


31st January – End of Compliance Year

This is the final day to purchase and accept your required Packaging Recovery Notes (PRNs) for the compliance year.

Once you have accepted your full requirement online, you will be able to download and submit your Certificate of Compliance.

Frequently asked questions

Should you have any further questions than those we answer below, please get in touch with us, and a member of our team will answer your query as soon as possible.

Why do PRN prices change?

PRNs are sold on an open market which means that prices fluctuate according to supply and demand. If there is a perceived shortage of PRNs then prices are likely to increase in response, but if there is a perceived excess of PRNs, the price will decrease.

Prices for each grade can also fluctuate due to economic, political and social variables. The Clarity team work hard to inform our clients of these changes to offer you the most cost-effective and low risk solutions.


What are the different PRN grades?

There are six materials for which a business might have an obligation: plastic, paper, glass, aluminium, steel and wood. Businesses must calculate their packaging obligation for the compliance year for each specific material, purchasing enough PRNs to cover those that they have performed activity on.


Where does the money I pay for PRNs go?

Packaging Recovery Notes generate income for reprocessors. This money is then invested back into recycling projects, ensuring that the UK’s recycling and recovery industry continues to grow, and enabling the UK to meet its obligations under the European Regulations. The income generated from PERNs is used to finance the transportation of recyclables to overseas reprocessors.


What will happen if I don’t purchase PRNs?

Failing to meet your legal obligations, or providing false or misleading information, can lead to prosecution under criminal law. In England and Wales there are also civil penalties. These include:

Or, an enforcement undertaking: an offer, formally accepted by your environmental regulator that redresses the impact of your non-compliance – these apply to offences after 6 April 2010 in England and after 15 July 2010 in Wales.


Why do I need to purchase PRNs?

Under the Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging Waste) Regulations, businesses that handle packaging must finance the recovery and recycling of packaging materials in proportion to the amount they have placed on the market.

This is achieved by procuring PRNs, which are certificates of evidence that prove a tonne of packaging waste has been recovered and reprocessed or exported.

Clarity’s PRN Trading Service

Clarity has been trading in PRNs since our business was established in 2002. We offer a variety of ways to procure packaging recycling and recovery evidence, helping UK businesses to meet their PRN obligations under the Producer Responsibility (Packaging Waste) Regulations.

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