Packaging waste data indicates grades will exceed targets

The monthly packaging waste data for November suggests that some grades will head into the new year with additional packaging recovery note (PRN) tonnage to go towards next year’s higher targets.

Most PRN grades reported less production than the previous month, with wood, paper and plastic recording significantly lower figures than in October.

Data released on the 9 December 2020 reported wood production at 48,296 tonnes for November, which is over 40,000 tonnes less than the October data. Paper production was at 324,466, which is 55,801 tonnes lower than the month before, and plastic production was just over 72,600 tonnes, which is 28,239 tonnes lower.

Despite these reduced production levels, and the UK obligation having been updated with additional tonnage in November, the latest data continues to suggest that all materials will exceed estimated packaging waste recycling and recovery targets for 2020. Aside from glass and plastic, all materials have now reached their 2020 obligations. Plastic is now at 99.8% of its target with carry over, while glass currently sits at 97.8%.

Warnings have arisen over the potential for PRN cancellations as a result of increased enforcement activity by the Environment Agency, with the regulator announcing that it is stepping up its review of possible illegal activities within the packaging waste system. This could lead to PRNs that have already been issued becoming invalid if they have been generated as a result of non-compliance with the regulations. 

"It is vital that appropriate enforcement and inspections of domestic and export premises are carried out to ensure that packaging waste recycling is achieved in the UK in the most responsible and sustainable way. This is something we take very seriously in our role as a compliance scheme operator."

Martin Trigg-Knight, Head of Packaging

Martin Trigg-Knight, Head of Packaging at Clarity Environmental, said: “The November monthly data, viewed alongside the now verified quarterly data, shows that some grades will have the benefit of starting the new compliance year in a positive position, with significant carry over. The news that the EA has stepped up its regulatory activities could have some impact on these tonnage figures, if it results in more accreditations being cancelled.”

Martin stressed the importance of this action, despite the news bringing some uncertainty late in the year: “It is vital that appropriate enforcement and inspections of domestic and export premises are carried out to ensure that packaging waste recycling is achieved in the UK in the most responsible and sustainable way. This is something we take very seriously in our role as a compliance scheme operator and go above and beyond to make sure our Comply with Clarity compliance members receive ethical and responsible compliance. ” 

Looking ahead to the new year, higher targets for 2021 and 2022 have been announced by Defra. Whilst the positive carry over achieved will put the market in a positive position, continued challenges from external forces outside of the industry, such as the worldwide response to Covid-19, will be key to how easily the UK can achieve these higher targets in the years ahead.

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