Provisional Q1 packaging data reports good progress

The Environment Agency has released provisional packaging data for the first quarter of 2021 on the National Packaging Waste Database (NPWD).

Alongside carry over figures from 2020, the unverified Q1 data shows strong supply and positive progress towards this year’s targets. When compared to the same period last year, the provisional data shows most materials are performing better and as expected despite the Covid-19 restrictions in place at the start of the year.

However, with an administrative error thought to be impacting plastic packaging figures, caution around the data is urged until verified figures are released next month. The UK obligation is also set to be published in May, which will provide a more detailed outlook for the year.

The Environment Agency is aware of the discrepancy of more than 40,000 tonnes in plastic figures. The current data shows the net plastic packaging total of 72,224 tonnes exceeded gross figures of 30,751 tonnes, a figure that should be impossible as net totals deduct non-target materials included in the gross totals.

Glass remelt is one material that has, so far, remained behind target, with tonnages down by over 30,000 tonnes compared to last year. With the UK in lockdown and the hospitality sector closed for that period, it is unsurprising to see glass remelt falling behind. If summer consumption patterns for bottled drinks return to pre-covid levels, there is an expectation that production volumes could rectify by early Q3. Whilst glass other tonnages are up by almost 40,000 tonnes, the maximum permitted percentage of other has reduced to 28% this year, meaning it cannot make up the remelt shortfall.

The Q1 data puts paper in a particularly strong position. Nearly 986,000 tonnes of paper was recycled in Q1, which is up by around 10% on the same period last year. Aluminium data also shows a positive period, with 41,663 tonnes reported compared to 36,151 in 2020.

"The interim quarterly data confirms the view provided by monthly figures that overall position for many grades is good. Strong carry over has bolstered these figures and put most materials in a confident position for meeting annual targets. Considering all the uncertainties around the continued lockdown and the impacts of Brexit on exports, it is reassuring to see grades progressing well in these first two months of the year."

Martin Trigg-Knight, Head of Packaging

Head of Packaging at Clarity Environmental, Martin Trigg-Knight, said the latest data pointed to some positive progress so far: “The interim quarterly data confirms the view provided by monthly figures that overall position for many grades is good. Strong carry over has bolstered these figures and put most materials in a confident position for meeting annual targets. Considering all the uncertainties around the continued lockdown and the impacts of Brexit on exports, it is reassuring to see grades progressing well in these first two months of the year.

“Glass re-melt and the consequential total glass targets will need to be watched closely, however the expectation is that with lockdown now easing and hospitality reopening, we could see improvements in volumes of high quality remelt recycling by the end of the summer.”

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