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Sector lauds progress in PRN regime

Changes to paper PRNs have simplified the registration process drastically, and consolidation between domestic plastic processors and exporters could be brought in within a matter of months, according to industry leaders.

The Waste Packaging Recovery Note system has been put under the scrutiny of the Advisory Committee on Packaging (ACP) and a consultation paper was published in March.

The registration process has already been improved for paper. The Recycling Association (RA) and the Confederation of Paper Industries (CPI) have been pushing for the process to be simplified as many businesses were put off and no longer taking part in the scheme.

For applications that have not changed materially this year, there is now a tick box option. Simon Ellin, RA chief executive, who also sits on the ACP, said: “It took five minutes to register this year, in the previous year it took two days. That’s a fantastic development and I have to give big credit to the Environment Agency (EA) for listening and taking it forward.”

Businesses registering for paper for the first time now also have the option to avoid the sampling and inspection regime if they comply with European paper grade classification EN643, but can only claim PRNs for 97.5% of a load. The RA and CPI want this to be 100%.

Currently for mixed packaging, paper PRNs are allowed at 12.5%. But Ellin said this content actually ranges from 12.5-60%, which “means we are losing quite a lot of PRNs in the system”. He wants to undertake a sampling test among his members to ascertain a more accurate percentage that could be applied and is in talks with the EA.

Meanwhile, UK plastics processors have been asking for a ‘level playing field’ between themselves and exporters and it looks like they are about to get it. Phil Conran, chair of the ACP and a director of 360 Environmental, said that advantages exporters were seen to have over UK processors could be overturned within “one to three months”. 

This could take the form of UK processors and exporters both being able to claim the same proportion of PRNs in any load, for example. If they wanted to claim more PRNs above a set threshold, they might need to provide evidence.

Another change that has been brought in across the entire PRN system is to allow senior management to delegate signing off reports for PRN accreditation. Previously only an “approved person” could sign off but this often led to delays when a senior manager was not available. 

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