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Warning over plastic recycling volumes in 2016

An expert on the recycled plastics market has warned that the challenging outlook for the sector could have a big effect on the ability of the industry to meet packaging recycling targets in 2016.

Stuart Foster, chief executive of Recoup, said the system had to be changed to prevent short-term PRN price volatility. He was commenting on the latest provisional data for packaging in Q3 showing that 197,249 tonnes of plastics packaging were recycled, with 61% exported and 39% staying in the UK.

Recoup points out that some reprocessors and exporters have yet to report their data so the figures will be revised upwards when they are finalised next month.

Foster said it had been expected that the weaker market for recycled plastics would mean a fall in Q3, and that “the unnecessary annual game of plastic PRN poker between the sellers and buyers will commence”.

He said the data casts doubt over the achievability of the 2015 target, and would almost certainly lead to speculation on further plastic PRN increases to the end of the year.

“The fact that significant PRN tonnage from 2014 was carried over to 2015 will provide a cushion, but it is almost certain that cushion will not be there for 2016 as plastic packaging recycling targets increase by another 5%.

“For the benefit of everyone, we need to see some changes to the way the current system works,” he said.

Recoup has reiterated its response to Defra’s consultation on aspects of packaging waste regulations, including a call for efforts to devise a mechanism that ensures more stable short-term prices. It also argues there is a need for PRN funding to be more transparent.

“Based on published information, approximately £55m has been raised through the plastic PRN system over the past three years, with £11.3m being allocated towards local authority collections.

“Local authorities were asked as part of the Recoup annual survey if they see any benefit from plastic PRN monies. Of 199 responses, 39% said yes, 61% stated unsure or no. There is a need to ensure that plastic PRN funding is more transparent.”

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