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We need an alternative to PRNs

The PRN system was dreamt up by industry as a means of demonstrating compliance and pumping funds back into the recycling chain if required, says 360 environmental director Phil Conran

Some – myself included – feel that it does little to create long term investment and is often more of a distraction than positive planning tool. But nevertheless, it can work as a means of increasing recycling as we saw in 2008.

Without steel PRNs rising to cover the subsidies needed to make overseas markets accept steel cans, there is little doubt that we would have seen widespread non-compliance that year.

From the Government’s point of view, the PRN system ensures that reprocessors and exporters provide the data they need to send to Europe.

So could the Packaging Waste Directive be delivered without the PRN? Many will argue that the PRN has had its day.

Only one other country in Europe uses a similar system, the Directive targets are easily exceeded, PRN values are so low that they make no difference to recycling rates and other pressures – landfill tax and new recycling requirements – are raising recycling levels.

But until an alternative means of applying producer responsibility and measuring recycling rates is found, there is no choice and that takes time.

360 Environmental director Phil Conran

Readers' comments (1)

  • Change is needed but the priority maybe to change the targets. At present too little of the value of PRNs gets through to local authorities who incur most of the cost of collection. Changing the form of the targets to distinguish between material collected from domestic and commercial premises would produce revenue to help develop collections in those sectors and reduce the impact of back of store industrially sourced material - which is going to be recycled anyway.

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