Packaging industry must tighten reins on recycling

Industry recycling targets have not been met in the UK, and some compliance scheme or obligated companies have failed to comply with the Packaging Waste Regulations in 2004.

Producer Responsibility scheme Valpak has warned that, although the UK reached and exceeded municipal waste recycling targets (see related story), Government figures show that the UK failed to meet intermediate recycling targets in aluminium, steel and plastic – as well as the overall recycling target itself.

Also, according to Valpak, it is clear from studying the figures that the run rate increased significantly during the fourth quarter of the year, impacting on the carry-out figures, especially seeing as the UK failed to meet some of its recycling targets.

The total number of tradable recycling permits, Packaging Waste Recovery Notes (PRNs), purchased in 2004 also failed to meet the overall general recycling target by 80,000 tonnes. Although, this is partly due to last year’s fraud investigation that saw a reduction of 80,000 tonnes of PRNs recorded in 2003 because they had been issued inappropriately.

However, according to Valpak, the figures for 2004 demonstrate that the PRN market struggles to react to such large volumes of material being removed from the system over such short periods of time.

Chief executive of Valpak, Steve Gough said that the figures were mostly in-line with the industry’s expectations, and indicated the challenges that needed to be overcome in order to make the system more effective.

“The figures illustrate that significant tonnages of PRNs which were available at the beginning of the year were actually only purchased towards the end of the year,” he explained. “This suggests that either reprocessors held onto PRNs in the hope of getting higher prices, or that compliance schemes and obligated companies held back purchasing in the hope of lower prices at the end of the year.”

“Valpak believes that it is irresponsible of compliance schemes, and contravenes agency guidelines, to leave purchasing the bulk of their obligations until the final quarter of the year.”

He added that the whole industry would need to work together to increase UK recycling infrastructure in order to meet increasing targets, but that the numbers confirmed predictions that the market would stay tight in the foreseeable future.

Suggestions were also made to introduce a penalty PRN system for non-compliance, with a mechanism put in place to charge a variable penalty sum for each material shortage based on a multiple of the most expensive price paid for that material during the compliance year. The funds would then be invested back into the recycling infrastructure.

“These figures demonstrate the need for continued investment and strengthening of the PRN system in order to drive recycling rates up,” Mr Gough concluded.

By Jane Kettle

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