Government does not know how much packaging waste is being recycled

Because there is no central register recording which companies are being awarded Packaging Recovery Notes (PRNs), the UK Government does not know how much packaging is being recycled, and the country will not achieve recycling targets set by the European Commission for packaging waste this year, says a PRN trading forum.

The European Commission has set a 50% packaging waste recycling target for 2001 (see related story), and there are also predictions that Environment Minister Michael Meacher will push the 2002 target to 60% or higher, according to The Environment Exchange, a forum for trading in PRNs. Currently, 12,000 firms within the UK are obligated to recycle their packaging waste. PRNs are awarded to companies as evidence that they have disposed of their packaging waste appropriately, such as for recycling or burning for energy. The notes can also be traded, allowing firms unable to reach recycling targets to purchase them instead, and consequently rewarding those companies that recycle more than required by legislation. However, there is no central register recording which companies have received PRNs, nor of PRN trading transactions, an Environment Exchange spokesman told edie.

Further complications arise within the market because packaging waste recycling obligations vary between companies, Angus Macpherson of The Environment Exchange explained to edie. Currently, there is also a rumour that the market is being rigged to a degree by reprocessors and compliance schemes where the market price may be being controlled by activities such as holding back on the supply of PRNs. However, with no mechanism for identifying offenders, this rumour can be neither confirmed nor denied. Companies that do not yet have their required PRNs for the year may face problems as prices rise in line with the decrease in availability. They will now be charged over the odds, says Macpherson.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) acknowledges that packaging is important, reducing product wastage and saving resources between point of production and final consumption, but states that it is important to recover or recycle the resource, and is keen to put an emphasis on minimising packaging and packaging waste.

A packaging industry association has also recently claimed that packaging legislation in Europe is discriminatory and is not necessarily producing positive environmental impacts (see related story).

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