Government targets for waste recycling encourage innovation and PRN trading

The tough targets for recycling and waste minimisation set out in the Government's Waste Strategy have provided added impetus to research the development of technology. A key influence in stimulating recycling have been the Packaging Waste Regulations which have also resulted in a new market, trading PRNs

The drive to achieve recycling targets across the UK has triggered a diverse range of initiatives, investment and research which has helped to push waste minimisation and recycling up the political agenda.

The production, recovery and disposal of construction and demolition (C&D) waste have been the subject of the most comprehensive survey of the area ever carried out in England and Wales. Undertaken by Symonds in the spring of 2000 for the Environment Agency, and co-funded by the DETR with the support of the National Assembly for Wales, the report from the survey showed that estimated production of C&D waste (including excavated soils) in England and Wales in 1999 was 72.5 million tonnes (69.3Mt in England).

The breakdown of this total in recovery and disposal was:

  • 25.1 million tonnes (35%) [24.4Mt in England] were recycled (by screening and /or crushing)
  • 9.5 million tonnes (13%) [9.4Mt in England] were re-used on licensed landfills for site engineering (including daily cover) and restoration
  • 20.3 million tonnes (28%) [19 Mt in England] were spread on sites registered as exempt from waste management licensing under specific exemptions (Paragraph 9 and 19 sites); and
  • 17.5 million tonnes (24%) [16.7 Mt England] were disposed of to landfill.

    The report also says that most of the wastes that are recycled are used as a substitute for primary aggregates: the rest are used as soil.

    The data will strengthen the arguments in favour of the increased use of recycled C&D waste in building and civil engineering, which, in the long term, will reduce the vast tonnages of construction waste going to landfill.

    Financial boost in Scotland

    In Scotland Environment Minister Sam Galbraith has called for a rethink in the way recycling is tackled. He was announcing the first allocations from the Strategic Waste Fund, where each of Scotland’s 32 local authorities will share in a £3 million allocation to boost local facilities and make it easier for people to recycle. He said the focus in tackling waste should be on minimisation, reuse, recycling and composting.

    At the other end of Britain, in Cornwall, Roseland Waste Management has received a commendation from the Cornwall Waste Minimisation Award 2000 for showing commitment to continuous environmental improvement through waste minimisation. The competition was organised by Groundwork Environmental Business Services. A member of Groundwork’s Payback scheme, Roseland opened its new MRF at Lean Quarry, near Liskeard, in January 2000.

    The site already handles over 15,000 tonnes a year, primarily construction and commercial wastes, of which 75% from landfill and 31% recovered for aggregates, metal and timber recycling.

    In an initiative in the North East ICI Chemicals and Polymers Ltd and RPC Containers have facilitated the donation of £22,000 to the national recycling organisation, RECOUP, through the Landfill Tax credit scheme.

    The funding will launch two new programmes – the first will investigate and report opportunities to increase plastics packaging recycling in Teesside and the second scheme will look at the feasibility to recycling larger post-industrial and commercial plastic containers typically used in catering and DIY applications.

    Impact of PRN obligation

    From a vantage point at OM Environment Exchange (OMEE), the internet-based trading operation for packaging recovery notes (PRNs), Managing Director Angus Macpherson predicts volumes and price increases. He says: “By lowering the obligation criteria for companies involved in packaging – turnover in excess of £2 million, handling 50 tonnes of packaging a year – Government has substantially expanded the number of obligated companies.”

    He reports that PRN prices, with the exception of plastic, have risen sharply in both volume and price terms, as the “obligation year” closes.

    The OM Environment Exchange is also attracting more and more trading from the compliance schemes, where Mr Macpherson sees the bulk of his business likely to come from in the future.

    OMEE also reports that in January last year paper PRNs were trading at less than £10 a tonne. As of last month (January 2001) the prices offered on the OMEE trading floor was double that level, although trading continued to be below offer prices.

    The latest development at the Exchange is the introduction of a PRN Forward Contract.

    OMEE sees a range of other environmentally-related economic instruments which will be seeking a suitable market place over the next few years, including ROC certificates and emission quotas.

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