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Defra to tackle PRN/PERN 'imbalance'

Defra has said it will change rules on how Packaging Recovery Notes (PRNs) are issued by the end of April in order to “level the playing field” between domestic reprocessing and exports.

Defra expects the measure will help address the ‘imbalance’ between PRNs and Packaging Recovery Export Notes (PERNs).

UK reprocessors have repeatedly argued the current system incentivises sending waste materials abroad because exporters can claim PERN credits on 100% of the tonnage they export while PRN issuers can only do so if they reach minimum efficiency standards.

The changes will be made through the publication of a document - the GN01 guidance note - on the Environment Agency’s (EA) section on the cross-department online portal GOV.UK, Defra official Sarah Wooller (above, second left) told a conference organised by the Advisory Committee on Packaging.

Current GN01 guidance note

Current GN01 guidance note

Under the current GN01 guidance, the efficiency standard for plastics is 75% (see table).

As part of the new GN01 guidance, such efficiency requirements will be removed, Chris Grove, environment and business senior adviser at the EA (above, left), told MRW.

Issuers will be able to claim PRN/PERN on the basis of the tonnage of packaging they recycle, provided they demonstrate it is waste packaging.

The EA will check whether their claims match their activity through the existing testing regime that applies to accredited reprocessors and exporters.

Wooller acknowledged the move was a small step but said gradual reforms rather than introducing radical changes was preferable to avoid shocks in the market.

She also said the reform on the packaging regulations needed to be “self-contained” because there would not be time for any formal legislation before the general election.

There have been increasing calls for the PRN/PERN system to be adjusted since the All Party Parliamentary Sustainable Resource Group said it needed “urgent reform” last year.

The publication of the new guidance has been delayed by the planned migration of the EA website to GOV.UK, added Wooller.

A number of industry figures have criticised a lack of clarity on the new EA website and that some relevant guidance and forms have gone missing after the planned shift to GOV.UK took place on 1 April.

Readers' comments (1)

  • Bernard Chase

    If it is indeed the intention of the EA to effect this change to the GN01 guidance, they will have missed the point entirely about level playing fields.
    The 75% efficiency threshold was originally incorporated into the guidance to prevent UK reprocessors claiming 100% PRN on bales that actually contained minimum genuine packaging waste. It also provided a driver towards good quality collection and reprocessing outcomes.
    Removing the 75% efficiency requirement for UK reprocessors will do little to 'level' the playing field, it will merely enshrine the principle that it's OK to include 75% contamination in a bale of waste plastic packaging.
    Bernard Chase

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