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Packaging Recovery Notes: The Complete Guide

What are Packaging Recovery Notes (PRNs)?

A Packaging Recovery Note is a piece of certificated evidence that proves a tonne of packaging waste has been recovered and reprocessed or exported for reprocessing. When materials are exported for reprocessing, this is referred to as a Packaging Export Recovery Note (PERN).

PRNs and PERNs are the mechanism through which businesses obligated under the packaging regulations comply with legislation. Compliance in this system is achieved by purchasing volumes of PRNs determined by the amount of packaging they have placed on the UK market, and the recycling target for that particular material.

Who should buy PRNs?

Businesses who place over 50t of packaging onto UK markets and have an annual turnover of £2m, are obligated under UK’s Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging Waste) Regulations 2007 UK Statutory Instruments 2007 No. 871 to purchase P(E)RNs, soon these businesses will be obligated under Extended Producer Responsibility.

If you’re unsure if you’re obligated, please get in touch with our team of specialists below.

Will I still need to buy PRNs once Extended Producer Responsibility is in place?

Currently there are only two responsibilities obligated businesses need to fulfil in order to comply with regulations, there are to:

  1. Submit packaging data once a year
  2. Purchase the equivalent number of PRNs to the amount of packaging they have placed onto UK markets

In the new system, businesses obligated under EPR will be required to:

  1. Submit granular packaging data twice a year
  2. Purchase the equivalent number of PRNs to the amount of packaging they have placed onto UK markets
  3. Pay waste management fee and scheme administrator costs to the scheme administrator (scheme administrator for Extended Producer Responsibility is yet to be announced)

Under Extended Producer Responsibility, the purchasing of P(E)RNs remains the mechanism through which obligated businesses comply with their recycling obligations. Under the new system, obligated businesses will continue to purchase P(E)RNs as they do now however, there will be an additional Local Authority waste management fee.

How does the PRN system work?

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

Once generated, the reprocessor will then sell the recycling evidence (PRN/PERN) onto a compliance scheme who supply the PRN to an obligated business to ensure their compliance. Each business obligated under the packaging regulations or soon to be Extended Producer Responsibility system must purchase a volume of PRNs determined by the amount of packaging they place onto UK markets, and the recycling target for those materials.

The PRN compliance calendar

April 7th

Register with the Environment Agency (EA) and submit your packaging data under current system

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 incur a late registration fee.

From July 2023

Register as a household packaging producer

The scheme administrator (SA) for packaging EPR is yet to be announced. Defra will announce the SA at the end of 2023.

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 to the EA.

Questions about PRNs

If you have any further questions about Packaging Recovery Notes, packaging compliance or Extended Producer Responsibility, please reach out to us via the form below, one of our specialists will respond to you as soon as possible.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Why do PRN prices change?

    PRNs are sold on an open market which means that prices fluctuate according to supply and demand. The PRN system is designed so that when there’s a shortage of packaging recovery notes, the price of the recycling evidence will increase, stimulating the market, subsequently increasing the level of recycling; higher prices usually mean more recycling is being done.

    Prices for each grade can also fluctuate due to economic, political and social variables. The Clarity team ensure our clients are always informed of these changes, offering you the most cost-effective and low risk solutions.

    What are the 6 PRN grades?

    The 6 Packaging Recovery Notes grades are:

    • Paper/board
    • Glass Other/Glass re-melt
    • Aluminium
    • Steel
    • Plastic
    • Wood

    Why do I need to buy PRNs?

    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.

    1. Purchasing P(E)RNs ensures your compliance with environmental legislation
    2. Engaging in the P(E)RN system increases the amount of UK and international reprocessing by investing money into the system through the purchase of recycling evidence
    3. The purchasing of PRNs reduces the environmental impact of your packaging by ensuring that an equivalent amount of waste to the packaging you place onto UK markets is being reprocessed or exported for reprocessing

    What happens if I don’t buy 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:

    • Fixed penalty fines for minor offences
    • Higher fines for more serious offences

    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.

    What is the money used for when I buy PRNs?

    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, and ensures that UK exports of recycling commodities are able to compete against lower priced material from other parts of the world; it means that UK recycling is supported even in the toughest of global market conditions.

    Trade with Clarity

    If you have any questions on PRNs, packaging compliance or EPR, please contact us and one of our specialists will respond to you as soon as possible.