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Budget 2012: Packaging targets announced

Ministers are to forge ahead with new tougher packaging recycling targets later this year, including a controversial 5% annual hike for the plastics sector, the Chancellor confirmed in the Budget.

The government has opted to go for the highest targets outlined in a consultation launched in December

The Budget said: “The Government will legislate later in 2012 for increased statutory packaging recycling targets from 2013 to 2017.

“Targets will increase annually by 3% for aluminium, 5% for plastic and 1% for steel. Glass recycling targets will be split by end use.”

Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman said: “The Chancellor’s announcement today to introduce more ambitious packaging recycling targets is great news for the waste industry, the economy and the environment.

“As well as stopping around 400,000 tonnes of waste going to landfill, by recycling materials businesses will also be able to lower their costs.

“The recycling industry continues to grow and the extra stimulus of the higher targets will keep that going, driving investment in waste infrastructure to create new jobs.”

The decision to increase the plastics recycling target to 57% by 2017 has divided opinion.

Jonathan Short, MD of ECO Plastics, said: “The government should be commended for sticking to its guns and introducing escalating mandatory recycling targets. They will deliver a range of economic and environmental benefits and will underpin investment in crucial processing infrastructure.”

But the proposal sparked a furious response from the British Plastics Federation, which labelled the targets “politically driven” and “deeply concerning”, when they were unveiled in the consultation ( 10 Feb).

The group has since been lobbying the Treasury in a bid to circumvent Defra and get the targets reduced.

The Aluminium Packaging and Recycling Organisation (Alupro) welcomed the new targets but has cautioned “continual review is critical if the industry is to maximise recycling performance”.

Rick Hindley, Alupro executive director, said: “Alupro fully supports the setting of aspirational targets but because there is still uncertainty concerning the removal of aluminium included in composite packaging from waste arising figures, we strongly recommend that the targets set until 2017, are reviewed in 2014.”

The new, statutory targets will play a vital role in achieving this by driving investment through the Packaging Recovery Notes (PRN) system, and ensuring recycling performance is maximised.”

The increased targets could spark a substantial increase in the value of packaging recovery notes.

Duncan Simpson, marketing director of leading compliance scheme Valpak, has previously told MRW that PRNs for plastics could rise to between £35 to £65 a tonne as targets rise between 2013 and 2017.

The PRN system has come under mounting criticism by reprocessors who have urged ministers reform it.  

Reprocessors have said increasing the targets without a more balanced system for issuing PRNs and packaging export recovery notes (PERNs) could have perverse effects.

The proposed new targets are:

  • Increase the steel recycling target by one per cent per year, from 71 per cent in 2012 to 76 per cent by 2017
  • Increase the aluminium recycling target by three per cent per year, from 40 per cent in 2012 to 55 per cent in 2017
  • Increase the plastics recycling target by five per cent per year, from 32 per cent to 57 per cent by 2017
  • Increase the overall packaging recovery rate by one per cent each year, from 74 per cent in 2012 to 79 per cent in 2017

Defra said:

“The proposed targets would also see glass recycling split into sub-categories to boost the amount of glass that is re-melted.  This is  more environmentally friendly than using it as an aggregate in such things as building materials. 

“Paper and wood recycling targets will remain unchanged as the UK is currently achieving 81.9 per cent and 75.4 per cent for these materials respectively.  The Government is also considering proposals for landfill restrictions for wood to be announced later this year.

“These targets have been drawn up following recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Packaging and fulfil a commitment in the Waste Review, published in the summer, to consult on increased recycling targets. This balances the need for environmental ambition and affordability for businesses and government.  An action plan to ensure the quality and consistency of material sent for recycling will be published later this year.”

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