Respondents to a consultation on plastics packaging have called for current targets to be frozen until 2020 in order to reduce the “heat and volatility” of the PRN system.
The two-month long government survey consulted waste industry members on proposals to amend plastics target under the Producer Responsibility Obligations – after research suggested that recycling of the material is higher than previously thought
The plastics packaging target, which stands at 52% for 2016, is set to rise to 57% for 2017 despite concerns raised in the ‘Plastic Flow 2014’ report that the baseline data used by Defra to measure the UK’s progress to EU packaging targets is incorrect.
Defra’s consultation also looked into wider issues surrounding packaging waste recycling in the UK, and whether producers and compliance schemes could work with councils to increase collections of packaging waste.
A total of 17 trade associations, 15 compliance schemes, 11 advisory organisations, six producers and four councils responded to the consultation between March and May this year.
Asked whether the respondents believed the total weight of plastic packaging placed on the market will continue to be steady from 2015 to 2017, the consultation report states that a ‘large majority’ of 26 responses received agreed with the assumption.
They added that amending the target to reflect the Plastic Flow report would see the UK meet EU packaging targets ‘comfortably’ without the need to place an additional cost burden on producers.
However, some added that the potential risk of reducing the UK plastics target could mean a greater challenge to meet any sharp rise in the EU Directive target. The respondents argued no changes should be considered unless “strong and transparent evidence” is provided and agreed with the Plastic Flow steering group.
When asked how target changes are reflected in PRN prices, 19 respondents made a number of observations about the stability and transparency of the system.
The responses argued that high PRN prices attract fraud, in turn leading to market distortion and making it ‘impossible’ for reprocessors or producers to budget in advance. The report adds: “As a result the system does not properly support the market, contributing to its fragility and increasing the chance of market failures when other factors, such as the drop in oil prices, come into play.”
The respondents reiterated calls for monthly packaging recycling data that would help reduce sharp rises and falls in PRN prices, and for more transparency over where funding from PRNs is used.
They claim “it is absolutely imperative that current 2017 targets are extended until 2020 to take the heat and volatility out of the system” as well as a “default minimum value for plastic PRNs of £20 per tonne” to be considered for 2016 and 2017, with the floor price reset at the start of each year.
There was also criticism raised over the large surplus of wood PRNs in the market place, with 19,000 tonnes worth unsold in 2014. One response was to increase the wood recycling target from 22%.
On the issue of opportunities to encourage the recycling of household packaging waste, 36 responses were received, with the majority observing that councils should be able to benefit from PRN revenue as an incentive to raise high quality material for recycling.
They added that any changes to the PRN system should divert more funding to local authorities to increase the quality of household recycling.