The provisional 2020 packaging data for Q2 was released by the Environment Agency on the NPWD on Wednesday 22 July 2020, detailing how much packaging waste has been recycled or exported between April and June this year.
Although the data is not yet final, it provides an important insight into the recycling performance halfway through the compliance year. With the country in lockdown for much of the second quarter, this data release was widely anticipated, with many keen to review the impact of any difficulties being faced by the industry as a result of the covid-19 pandemic and the capacity for the industry to deal with any potential reduced recycling later in the year.
Overall, the provisional data provides a very positive outlook for the first half of the year. The data is particularly strong when carry over from 2019 is taken into account. If the performance of production is maintained through the second half of the year, the UK will be well on track to meet its 2020 targets across all materials. Plastic and aluminium are reporting particularly positive production halfway through the year, having already reached 62 and 69 per cent of their annual production targets respectively (with carry over). In anticipation of the data release, packaging recovery note (PRN) prices for both materials had already experienced a softening. There are, however, concerns that the lower price of plastic is making the correct and proper treatment and export of the material more difficult. Both industry and authorities will need to carefully monitor over the next few months to ensure that genuine, high quality, plastic waste exports can still be achieved with a lower PRN subsidy.
We could now see a response in the cost of steel PRNs, which has seen some elevated prices during the quarter and is now at 64.5% of its annual target including carry over. Paper and wood are two materials to watch, having both reported significantly lower production figures when compared with the same period last year. Although both remain above target, these two materials have historically been relied upon to help fill General Recycling.