Danone partners with Ecosurety to reduce reliance on export packaging recovery notes

Consumer goods giant Danone's UK arm has partnered with waste compliance organisation Ecosurety in a bid to improve the nation's recycling infrastructure and boost transparency around its resource and waste management efforts.

Announced on Wednesday (12 December), the three-year partnership will see Ecosurety take responsibility for managing Danone’s legal packaging and waste recycling obligations, as laid out in the Producer Responsibility Obligation (PRO) framework.

The framework places a legal requirement on packaging producers with an annual turnover of £2m and 50 tonnes of packaging to ensure that a proportion of their marketed products are recovered and recycled. Businesses are mandated to show evidence of compliance by purchasing Packaging Recovery Notes (PRNs).

Under the partnership, Danone will prioritise the purchase of PRNs from UK-based waste and recycling facilities, in a bid to funnel more of its PRN money into local infrastructure improvements. The company claims this funding will “further offset” its environmental impact and drive higher recycling rates among other businesses and the general public.

“As a multinational business with an ambition to lead in the sustainability sector, recycling is an area that we are particularly focused on improving,” Danone’s director of public affairs Caroline Winters said.

“Ecosurety’s approach to traceability and tangible reinvestment in the recycling sector resonated with our own environmental business objectives.”

As well as driving improvements within the UK’s recycling sector, the partnership will also help Danone work to improve its current UK packaging recycling rate from its current level of 80%, Winters added.

Home-grown solutions

The move from Danone UK comes at a time when the UK is estimated to ship two-thirds of its recyclable waste abroad for reprocessing, according to the latest official Defra figures, with money spent by businesses on foreign PRNs being invested abroad.

Indeed, around 48% of all PRNs purchased by UK-based companies are now believed to be purchased abroad, with recent research from the National Audit Office (NAO) concluding that packaging exports have increased six-fold since 2002 to reach £50m in 2017.

But the trend towards exporting waste could soon begin to peter out after China confirmed in January that it would stop accepting 24 types of plastic waste a week as mixed paper waste exports from other countries. Before the ban, the UK was exporting 2.7 million tonnes of plastic waste and 3.7 million tonnes of paper waste to China annually.

Since China’s ban, Malaysia and Vietnam have imposed temporary restrictions on recycling imports from the UK, and Poland has begun considering restrictions after fires at illegal waste dumps.

This string of actions has placed pressure on the UK to bolster its own recycling infrastructure, with some businesses and industry bodies suggesting that an increased PRN cost would be the most efficient way to finance these improvements. UK PRN costs currently average around €20 per tonne, while other European nations have an average cost of around €150 per tonne. 

In response to the issue, food and drinks giant Princes has stopped purchasing PRNs from overseas – a move it claims has funnelled around £750,000 into projects improving the UK’s recycling infrastructure since the start of 2018.

Sarah George 

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