Police are investigating the fraudulent issuing of packaging waste recovery notes (PRNs) by some plastics reprocessors and exporters.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) discovered that PRNs and packaging waste export recovery notes (PERNs) had been incorrectly issued. This meant that during 2002 and 2003 the UK appeared to be recycling more plastic packaging waste than it really was.
Environment Minister Elliot Morley said he was extremely disappointed with the reprocessors concerned.
He added: Some have already been suspended as a result of this exercise and will remain suspended until the issues identified have been resolved.
The suspended companies cannot be named until police and Environment Agency investigations are completed.
As a result of DEFRAs investigation the figures for plastic packaging waste recycled in 2002 will be reduced by 24,790 tonnes to 360,418 tonnes and by 80,885 tonnes to 321,205 tonnes for 2003.
DEFRA found that while some reprocessors had made a mistake in issuing PRNs for waste that was not obligated, others deliberately handed them out in order to receive more money from producers.
British Plastics Federation Recycling Council chairman Mark Burstall said that if any company had made an honest mistake the action taken was likely to be little more than a slap on the wrist from DEFRA.
But he added that if any
company were found to
have knowingly committed fraud the penalties could be far
The oversupply of PRNs sent their market value crashing to as little as £4 per tonne in 2003.
Burstall said: We think the real market for PRNs is rather tight and anticipate that this clean-up will allow the PRN mechanism to generate real income to support real growth for the majority of bona fide businesses that have invested heavily in plastics recycling.