PRN investigation turns attention to paper trail

Official investigations into dishonest issuing of Packaging Waste Recovery Notes (PRNs) are to focus on paper, following previous crackdowns on the wood and plastic sectors.

PRNs and their cousins Packaging Waste Export Recovery Notes (PERNs) are a kind of currency used within the recycling and packaging industries.

Large companies with an annual turnover of over £2 million and handling more than 50 tonnes of packaging a year are obliged to recycle a percentage of that packaging to help reduce waste going to landfill and meet European targets.

In order to prove to the authorities they have done this they need PRNs or PERNs, issued by recycling and waste export firms.

In 2003 a Defra-led investigation was launched following allegations that unscrupulous businesses were issuing notes for more packaging than they were recycling, or for waste that did not come from packaging.

The investigation led to the first prosecution of a reprocessor for fraudulent issuing of PRNs.

Stephen Leigh of SS Thermoplastics, Burslem, Staffordshire was given 100 hours' community service and told to pay £900 in costs when he appeared in court in May after defrauding packaging producers of £13,000.

He also agreed to pay back the ill-gotten money.

A handful of other processors are also being thoroughly grilled after the investigation has thrown up inconsistencies in the amount of packaging recycled and notes issued.

The latest stage of the investigation will follow the same model as the earlier inquiries and will see Defra working with the DTI, devolved governments and regulators.

A spokesman for Defra said: "This exercise will again seek to identify any weaknesses in the existing arrangements by examining the robustness of existing recording and monitoring systems and the audit trails adopted by paper packaging waste reprocessors and exporters." By Sam Bond




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