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Defra told: ‘councils should ring-fence PRN funding’

plastic packaging

Packaging producers want to see a return on their potential £600m investment into local authority recycling through a reformed packaging recovery note (PRN) system, resources minister Therese Coffey has been told.

Under proposals in the Government’s resources and waste strategy, producers will bear the full net cost of dealing with their end-of-life packaging. Currently, producers in the UK market contribute far less to the cost of recycling through PRNs than their EU counterparts.

The Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee has estimated local authorities in effect spend £600m on recycling that should be funded by producers.

Details on how a reformed PRN system could work has yet to be published in a Defra consultation. Producers are concerned that the additional money they will contribute could end up being used to fund council services other than recycling.

The issue was brought up at a Foodservices Packaging Association conference, at which Coffey spoke.

Industry Council for Packaging and the Environment chief executive Paul Vanston asked Coffey whether the consultation would include measures to ring-fence council budgets for recycling.

She did not confirm that the measure would be included, but Vanston said he was satisfied she had understood the point and would consider the implications.

Also speaking at the conference, Lord Deben warned that producers would “want a say in how that money is spent in order to ensure that it goes to increase recycling rather than go to the Treasury”.

He asked Coffey whether the Treasury would reduce councils’ central Government funding because of the increased flow of PRNs.

Coffey said this issue had not been raised in discussions between Defra and the Treasury.

Vanston told MRW: “A massive boost in PRN funding must guarantee an equally massive boost in councils’ recycling performance to achieve 65% in 2035.

“That means this funding is additional to councils’ existing recycling budgets, not a replacement.

“PRN funds must be ring-fenced for increasing capture and quality of packaging recyclates. Councils’ existing budgets – from council tax or other means – must not be allowed to be reduced because of the flow of PRN funds.”

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