Defra’s ‘unambitious’ aluminium recycling targets challenged

The Government's new packaging recycling business targets for 2018-20 do not reflect the sector's high ambitions to maximise recovery and recycling of the material, according to the Aluminium Packaging Recycling Organisation (Alupro).

The targets proposed in Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs’ (Defra) recent consultation are in line with the  EU Circular Economy package. However, Alupro is concerned that the momentum which has seen recycling performance for material improve over recent years could be undermined.

Prior to the publication of the consultation, Alupro had proposed the target for aluminium packaging be increased, and that future targets be “front end loaded” to ensure the producer responsibility system remains attractive to reprocessors and exporters. 

Alupro released a statement which said: “We believe these two measures would ensure that reprocessors/exporters remain interested in accreditation under the Producer Responsibility System. 

“Targets that are easily achievable will result in lower package recovery note (PRN) prices, making accreditation to the system less attractive. Our real fear is that the proposed targets will not convince reprocessors/exporters to remain accredited, with the result that volumes will go unreported and the true recycling performance will not be measured.”

‘Stretching but realistic’

Currently, Defra is considering three separate options for packaging targets and is accepting consultation on these targets until 6 Janurary 2017. The first option suggests no increase in rates between 2017 and 2020 (55% by 2020), while option two and three propose a steady yearly increase in rates (with 61% and 64% representing option two and three’s 2020 targets).

Alupro notes that the basis for the 2017 targets was established in 2011, before new scrap protocol and recovered packaging from incinerator bottom ash (IBA) was counted in recycling rates. Alupro worked with the Environment Agency (EA) to establish this new protocol, coming into effect in 2015.

Industry recycling performance data from Q1 to Q3 of 2016 suggests that aluminium packaging recovered from IBA accounts for 20% of PRNs issued. As a result, setting targets based on outdated information disregards a large amount of recycled packing, Alupro claims. The organisations states that the data is accurate and new market information should influence industry targets as is the case in several other industries.

The organisation will support the new goals but urges the Government to introduce “stretching but realistic” targets in future that will be reviewed regularly to boost sector efforts to engage circular systems and ensure robust data.

The plastic packaging sector has been reported to be struggling to meet current 2020 targets. The Government announced plans to relax plastic packaging recycling targets earlier this year, having fallen from 52% to 49% for 2016 and a 57% target for 2020.

Alex Baldwin

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie