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Progress Against Recycling Targets: 2023 Q3 PRN Data Release

The third quarterly data release of 2023 indicates robust production and a steady recovery across most of the compliance year so far. A notable highlight of the latest data release is the significant surge in Glass Other recycling, more than doubling the addition from the last quarter. 

Reprocessors are required to submit quarterly PRN market recycling data for their regulatory compliance, resulting in upsurges in the quarterly recycling data releases compared to voluntary monthly reports. Although this year’s quarterly boosts are reduced compared to previous years, the data reflects positive progress toward recycling targets. This decline in quarterly boosts may be attributable to improved voluntary monthly reporting by reprocessors, rather than a decrease in overall production as Q3 is looking very strong as a whole. 

It is important to note that while reprocessors are required to submit quarterly data, some major reprocessors are yet to submit, potentially resulting in a significant amount of unaccounted material in the data release. Another factor to consider is that despite the reduction in overall recycling obligation this year, many  packaging producers are yet to register their obligations for 2023. Whilst it is believed that the largest producers are registered, this uncertainty in demand could cause prices to remain as they are across most key grades in the immediate term. 

Paper and Board

Paper and Board experienced a boost of 50,870t (a decrease of 16,360t compared to the Q2 boost), the grade currently exceeds its year-to-date requirements by nearly 400,000t, positioning it favourably for the remainder of the year. However, it is important to note that the oversupply of Paper and Board will contribute to the General Recycling obligation.

Comparing the Q3 data of 2023 to that of the 2022 compliance year shows a significant disparity in the data. Global factors such as the energy crisis and European war caused issues around availability and in exports last year; it is encouraging to see these factors subsiding.

Glass Re-melt and Glass Other

The substantial boost from the Q3 data release for Glass Re-melt (+43,090t) has positioned this grade 104,650t ahead of its year-to-date target, with a total of 994,800 Glass Re-melt PRNs produced thus far in 2023. This positive performance bodes well for the remaining compliance year.

Notably, Glass Other, despite encountering some setbacks earlier in the year, received a significant boost in the Q3 data (+27,750t). Although this surge still leaves Glass Other 22,550t behind its year-to-date target, the consistent over-performance of Glass Re-melt has ensured a solid overall position for Glass, with 1,312,558 Glass PRNs produced in the 2023 compliance year, exceeding the overall Glass year-to-date target by 82,100t.

It is notable that not all glass recyclers have submitted their quarterly data submissions, so we could see this impact the market later in the quarter.


Aluminium experienced a modest boost from the 2023 Q3 data (+4,150t). Notwithstanding this, after months of consistently strong performances from this grade, Aluminium is ahead of its year-to-date requirement by more than a month (12,960t ahead). With 118,960 Alu PRNs generated in the 2023 compliance year so far, this grade is well-positioned for the rest of the year.

Like all other grades, we anticipate an increasing obligation as more businesses register with the Environment Agency for the 2023 compliance year, though it is notable that the majority of the aluminium obligation sits with large producers who are all registered for this year. Given the limited number of aluminium reprocessors and exporters, this grade warrants attention as the year draws to a close.


Steel is often one to watch in the quarterly data releases as this grade usually receives a large boost however, this year, Steel experienced only an 11,500t boost, bringing its total production for 2023 to 289,111t (41,520t ahead of its year-to-date target). Given the strong position of this grade for the rest of the year, the decrease in the quarterly data surge compared to the Q3 2022 release could imply an enhancement in voluntary monthly reporting from Steel reprocessors, rather than a decline in production.


With a 24,600t surge reported from the Q3 mandatory submissions, Plastic has achieved a record-breaking quarter in PRN production, reprocessing a total of 294,190t. This progress positions the grade 56,360t ahead of its year-to-date target. Despite the reduction in Plastic’s Q3 boost compared to the 2022 Q3 data release and the earlier quarterly releases this year, the overall quarterly performance for plastic (318,070T) is the strongest we have seen in several years.

Considering the significant number of Plastic reprocessors yet to submit their data, there remains potential for further growth in this category. However, it is important to note that the pending registrations of several businesses and the subsequent overall obligation increase, ongoing scrutiny of this grade is required as the compliance year draws to a close. It’s also worth noting that following concerns raised in the industry regarding the volume and quality of some plastic exports this year, there is potential for agency action on suspect export routes, something that could reduce the number of PRNs generated in the 2023 calendar year if this occurs.


While currently exceeding expectations, the overperformance of the Wood grade traditionally eases the strain on the General Recycling obligation. However, given the lingering non-registration of packaging producers, like Plastic and Wood, this grade requires continuous monitoring in upcoming months.

The Q3 data release indicates encouraging progress towards recycling targets, particularly for Glass Other, which notably experienced a significant and necessary boost. This suggests a more relaxed compliance situation for this grade, contrasting with its earlier underperformances this year.

However, despite mandated quarterly recycling data submissions we still have gaps in terms of non-submissions. When combined with the number of packaging producers still to submit and influence the obligation, leaves question marks around actual performance against the complete requirement.

Ed Ewence

Assistant Commercial Director

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