The Packaging Recovery Note system should be scrapped and replaced with the Green Dot system, according to Somerset Waste Partnership managing director Steve Read.
Giving his own views, instead of those of the Somerset Waste Partnership, Read said that the
Green Dot system helped support recycling at all levels, including not necessarily kerbside, but banks across Europe. So, the system is directly subsidising the cost of going out and servicing those banks and bringing material back.
We have not got that transparency in the UK. Where does the money raised from the PRN system go?
The Green Dot symbol appears in the form of intertwined arrows on a range of products including soap and detergent packaging. The Green Dot symbol is a trademark signifying the company producing the product has made a contribution to the costs of a packaging reclamation and recycling scheme which run in some European countries but not in the UK.
Packaging chain companies are obliged to hold Packaging Recovery Notes, as evidence that their legal responsibility to recover and recycle has been fulfilled. The income generated by PRNs has to be spent by the reprocessors on increasing collection and recycling capacity and to develop end markets. Obligated companies, or compliance schemes on their behalf, must obtain sufficient PRNs to meet their targets. These PRNs are traded on the open market and their value is determined by supply and demand, with the cost being passed on by compliance schemes to their members.
Read said that the whole PRN system costs £60 million to run and that is a conservative estimate. He added: It only puts about £60 million into the system every year that is a pound for everybody in the UK or about £2.40 per household. The people who run the PRN system will say yes it is good because we have always achieved our targets. But the question that arises in my mind is are the targets stretching enough? Or is there anything more we should be doing?
A recent report by environmental charity Green Alliance called Greener Products stated that there was a conflict of PRN policy objectives in that local authorities have a duty to collect dry recyclables and residual wastes, including packaging, which is counted in the trading scheme, but they do not get what they see as an appropriate return. It explains: The system is therefore an uncomfortable hybrid between public sector duties and a full producer responsibility scheme, with many local authorities saying that their collection of packaging materials for recycling in effect subsidises the PRN system, so that those companies covered by the regulations are not paying the full producer responsibility costs associated with the packaging they bring to market. It is also considered by some illogical to isolate packaging from other sources of the same materials.
Read explained that when the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs did a consultation on the PRN system, they said the existence of the system was non-negotiable.
He said: We [Defra] will talk about how we can improve it, make it more transparent, make the targets a bit more realistic, and how we can clamp down on people that are free-riding on the system. But we are not going to fundamentally look at the system, which I think is a missed opportunity.
He said with the Green Dot system the UK can trace back every piece of packaging from the people who sell it to us and they will retain responsibility for it after we [the public] have finished using it.