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Defra urged to reform PERN 'cheaters' charter'

The plastics sector has renewed its call for a reform of the system of packaging recovery notes (PRNs) and export notes (PERNs), warning there is a danger of it becoming a “cheaters’ charter”.

The recycling group of the British Plastics Federation (BPF) has written to Defra junior minister Richard Benyon, arguing for changes to the producer responsibility strategy to better encourage reprocessing in the UK.

Labour minister for Workington Sir Tony Cunningham asked Benyon whether “new obligations for plastic packaging manufacturers to fund recycling will be changed if local collection services cannot deliver the volumes targeted”.

The minister replied: “We are confident that the new targets can be achieved and will continue to monitor progress.”

In response to that, group chairman Roger Baynham wrote: “With the recent ministerial re-shuffle, ministers are likely to be taking stock but it is crucial that they follow through by capitalising on the opportunity to improve UK recycling infrastructure which we believe will be fundamental to achieving recycling targets”.

Members are concerned that weakening Asian markets will absorb less of the UK’s waste and 2012 reycling targets might not be met. They also claim that targets for 2013-17, announced in the Budget, are unrealistically high.

Baynham argues that “very challenging [recycling] targets stretching into the future” will mean an escalation in the PRN/PERN values adding significant costs to the supply chain down to the retailer.

MRW data shows that plastic PRNs, which were £2 in September 2010 and £6 in September 2011, have soared to £35 this month.

The BFP group argues is concerned that PERNs will be used to subsidise exports to a point where such waste materials become competitive on world markets.

Baynham wrote: “There is no doubt that the current system works in favour of waste exporters to the disadvantage of the UK recycler. Not only that, but our members are worried that high PRN/PERN values will incentivise unscrupulous players to pass off unobligated packaging as packaging waste, so the current system would become in effect a ‘cheaters’ charter‘.

“Increased PERN values will only serve to incentivise contamination and drive down quality and undermine the good work already done,” Baynham added.

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