Budget 2012: Higher packaging targets announced

Higher packaging targets for plastic, aluminium, steel and glass will come into force from 2013, the Government has confirmed in its Budget today (March 21).

Legislation will be passed later this year to increase statutory targets annually over a five-year period from 2013-2017 by 5% for plastic, 3% for aluminium and 1% for steel. Glass recycling targets will be split by end use.

The news has been welcomed by the waste sector, particularly reprocessors, who have been calling for stronger legislative drivers to encourage higher recovery levels of packaging materials.

However, many also want to see reform of the packaging waste recovery note (PRN) system which currently disadvantages domestic reprocessing in favour of exporting material overseas.

According to ECO Plastics managing director Jonathan Short, higher targets and PRN reform will help underpin investment in reprocessing infrastructure but he warned that better enforcement was also needed for trans-frontier waste shipments.

He said: “Without these measures the targets will simply be a case of rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, encouraging the loss and export of valuable resource and with it, green jobs.”

The Environmental Services Association (ESA) believes that higher targets combined with the five-year timescale will increase investor confidence in British reprocessing facilities.

The ESA’s director of policy Matthew Farrow said: “On packaging, the Government was right to stick to its guns. We also support the splitting of glass PRNs by end use, to reflect the environmental benefits of glass recyclate going to remelt.”

Under the proposals, plastics recycling targets will rise by 5% per year, from 32% to 57% by 2017, aluminium targets will increase by 3% per year, from 40% in 2012 to 55% in 2017, and steel targets will rise by 1% per year, from 71% in 2012 to 76% by 2017.

The overall packaging recovery rate will also increase by 1% each year, from 74% in 2012 to 79% in 2017.

The proposed targets would also see glass recycling split into sub-categories to boost the amount of glass that is re-melted, which is more environmentally friendly than using it as an aggregate.

Paper and wood recycling targets will remain unchanged as the UK is currently achieving 81.9% and 75.4% for these materials respectively. The Government is also considering proposals for landfill restrictions for wood to be announced later this year.

Maxine Perella

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