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Monthly PRN figures suggest recycling and reprocessing increase

The packaging waste recycling figures for May suggest positive progress towards the UK annual obligation for recycling and reprocessing despite lockdown restrictions.

The packaging waste recycling figures for May, released on 10 June on the NPWD, suggest positive progress towards the UK’s annual obligation for recycling and reprocessing, despite the lockdown restrictions caused by covid-19.

With many expecting to see a downturn in figures due to restricted recycling collections in some local authorities, the latest monthly data has been much better than expected. Glass, aluminium and plastic have all experienced increases in production when compared to the same month last year. The positive data has led to a softening in some PRN prices, notably aluminium and plastic – a welcome relief for producers who have faced increasing prices for some time.

Wood, however, is one material showing a significant drop in production, with the figures declining over the last two months compared to 2019. Many in the industry attribute this to the restrictions in place in household waste recycling sites, and the downturn in manufacturing industry where high quality wood (pallets) tends to come from. Likewise, recovery PRNs are also showing weaker production in the monthly data from previous years. As a result, recovery prices have remained high.

It is important to note, however, that monthly data submission from reprocessors is optional so the full picture will not be known until the quarterly data is released next month.

The Environment Agency has confirmed that it is working closely with businesses that export waste to ensure they are acting within the law. The regulator issued the statement following concerns that despite the lockdown, which forced many activities to cease in the UK and across the world, the latest data suggests that packaging recovery notes are being produced at higher levels than in previous years.

Various reasons have been cited as to the improvements in data, including an increase in the number of reprocessors registering to issue plastic PRNs, and a reduction in the amount of plastic being used by manufacturers. But claims have been made that there is potential for incorrect or wrongful issuing of evidence, which can distort the marketplace.

It is important that any significant or unusual changes in recycling data are reviewed by the regulators. For this reason, we welcome the news that the Environment Agency is looking into this and carrying out investigations if needed.

Martin Trigg-Knight, Head of Packaging at Clarity Environmental, said: “One of the benefits of the UK’s PRN system is that it provides flexibility and has the benefit of being able to adapt to market forces in a way that other industries can’t – something that has been vital this year, with the country having to adapt to lockdown restrictions. But there are undoubtedly flaws in the system and it is clear that it does not give sufficient levels of transparency; an area that is both long-debated and complex.”

As a business that prides itself on responsible behaviour, Clarity has invested time and resource into our PRN procurement strategy to ensure it is as ethical as it can be. Our unique position, as a compliance scheme with its own in house trading team, ensures we can be a responsible supplier for our members.

Martin added: “Working directly with reprocessors, we have been able to develop established relationships, and put a number of systems in place, to ensure all of our procurement is ethical and audited; providing peace of mind to our own business as well as those we work with.”

Comply with Clarity

To talk to a member of our team about our Comply with Clarity packaging compliance scheme, get in touch on 0845 129 7177 or visit our website for more information.

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