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PRN Price Volatility Reflects Packaging Data Uncertainty

The provisional 2018 Q4 packaging data was published on the National Packaging Waste Database (NPWD) website earlier this month (3 March 2019).

Whilst the provisional packaging data suggested that recycling targets for each material had been met in 2018, the industry has expressed caution for the year ahead, with increasing targets and lower levels of carryover for some materials compared to the previous year.

The PRN market has responded to the release of the data and is reflecting the uncertainty for 2019, with volatile prices for some materials.

There is particular attention on the price of Plastic PRNs, as a result of the material entering 2019 with reduced surplus. And with weaker than expected plastic production in February, prices have been climbing through the month. There are, however, ongoing conversations between the Environment Agency and some exporters around approved export routes for plastic packaging waste. Currently, it is unclear whether material exported via these routes will be available to claim PRNs on to add in to the PRN production for 2019.

The Q4 data reported that paper carry over was more than 90,000 tonnes lower than it was in 2017. Recent data does, however, suggest that paper is being reprocessed/exported in greater volumes than this point last year. This provides further evidence that high PRN prices support an increase in the amount of material reprocessing. Whilst paper PRN prices softened earlier in the month, March seems to be closing out at a high point.

Two materials performing well so far this year are wood and aluminium, with production remaining strong at the start of 2019. Prices have responded by softening a little from the higher levels experienced towards the end of last year.

Total glass PRN production is also performing well compared to last year, which is largely due to the significant increase in glass aggregate production in the first couple of months of the year. Strong production in Q4 resulted in a significant carry over into 2019 for glass.

Martin Trigg-Knight, Clarity Environmental Packaging Compliance Scheme Manager, said of the Q4 data: “By design, the money generated from PRNs should be used to increase reprocessing and export, enabling the UK to meet its recycling obligations. For some grades, such as wood, this seems to have been the case in 2018. Considering the increase in targets for wood last year, the carry over-represented in the provisional Q4 data is very positive, leaving the UK in a better position going into 2019.

“Less straightforward is the plastic situation. Despite the difficulties being encountered by exporters, plastic performed at around the same level in January as it did in the same month in 2018. This suggests a good response to the high plastic PRN price in Q3 and Q4 last year, encouraging recycling in the face of export problems. However, with a deficit of 51,000 tonnes, the performance of plastic needs to improve further this year, as almost all of the carry over was required to reach the 2018 target. Plastic will certainly remain one material to watch in 2019.”

Clarity has been buying and selling packaging recovery notes (PRNs) since our business started in 2002. We are now one of the largest and most experiences open market traders of PRNs. To talk to our team about buying or selling any grade of packaging recovery note (PRN), contact us on 0845 129 7177.

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