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Q1 PRN figures show plastic and recovery struggling

The latest Packaging Recovery Note (PRN) figures, showing a shortfall in the plastic and recovery sectors, could have wider implications, it is feared.

The plastic figure is almost 30,000 tonnes short of the target, while tonnage accepted or exported for recovery was 15% of the quarterly obligation.

The slump in the recovery figure is being blamed on a lack of accredited facilities that are able to issue PRNs following recent changes to regulations.

Despite the underperformance for plastics, Ian Andrews, senior market operator at t2e, said that buyers were expecting figures to be harder hit after many exporters reported poor trading conditions in January and February.

 Waste accepted or exported (tonnes)Quarterly obligations Q1 2015 (tonnes)
Paper 890,856 659,414
Glass remelt 256,483 258,686
Glass other 118,349 132,646
Aluminium 14,956 18,810
Steel 97,513 89,513
Plastic 195,431 223,497
Wood 94,825 58,802
Recovery 25,223 135,185

“The figure is better than anybody expected. My concern is that buyers will take that positive news and take the foot off the gas,” he said.

“I estimate that plastic this year will need to do about 220,000-225,000 tonnes a quarter. We’re nowhere near that.

“If buyers expect prices to hold where they are, then there is every chance that, when we get to the next quarter, supply figures will be exactly the same and that is a more precarious position because there are only six months left until the end of the year,” Andrews said.

Chris Taylor, commercial manager at Clarity Environmental, said the struggling recovery figures can be explained by recent changes to legislation that has left the sector in a state of flux.

Since January, recovery PRNs can only be issued by facilities that are R1 accredited by the Environment Agency (EA). Delays in applications from operators and approvals from the governing bodies have resulted in a dearth of facilities that can issue PRNs of this type.

Taylor said the EA and Defra were still considering whether to allow operators to backdate their recovery PRNs once the approval process has been completed in order to recover some of the lost PRNs from the first quarter.

“If recovery [PRN] supply can’t meet its demand, then the reliance on paper [used for recovery] may cause problems later in the year,” said Andrews.

He added that the paper sector was too often perceived as a ‘quick fix’ to fill recovery obligations. But if relied on too heavily, this could cause the price of paper PRNs to rise.

The figures also show a shortfall of almost 4,000 tonnes in the aluminium sector.

Executive director of aluminium recycling body Alupro, Rick Hindley, said this was the result of changes to protocol that have seen tonnages from scrap dealers excluded for the first time in place of aluminium recovered from incinerator bottom ash.

Taylor said that many were already looking to the second quarter figures to provide clarity.

Readers' comments (1)

  • Plastic Q1 figures for UK reprocessing are a puzzle as despite having been the toughest and lowest production Quarter for many years, the figures have been as high as last year's Q1. Surely some mistake??

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