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Wood recyclers warn Defra not to decrease packaging targets

The Wood Recyclers Association (WRA) has urged Defra not to decrease wood packaging waste recycling targets and has backed the continuation of the existing packaging recovery note (PRN) system.

The WRA made the plea as part of its response to Defra’s consultation on the UK packaging extended producer responsibility (EPR) scheme, which closed on 13 May.

It has also argued that the current EPR system for recycling wooden packaging is working, so it is therefore backing option 1 as ’an enhanced, near-to-business-as-usual model’.

WRA executive director Julia Turner said: “We believe the current system for the recycling of wooden packaging waste is working, but we also support the requirement to make the governance of the PRN system more transparent.”

The association also supports a Packaging Advisory Board to oversee the EPR system and the compliance schemes.

But it is concerned about Defra’s proposals to decrease wood packaging recycling targets up to 2030. Defra said its reasoning is because wood packaging placed on the market will increase faster than the tonnage of wood being recycled.

The WRA said that lowering the targets will take momentum out of recent positive steps it has seen in packaging wood waste moving up the waste hierarchy.

Turner added: “In a previous consultation, the WRA had recommended that wood packaging targets should be increased and this happened. However, these latest proposals seem to be reversing that decision to reflect lowered EU targets.

“We believe this proposal has been driven by the high wood PRN prices in 2018, which have already steadied at a more acceptable level due to the economic forces of supply and demand, with more waste wood packaging being recycled in 2019 and much lower wood PRN prices.

“This highlights that wood packaging targets could continue to be increased in further years without risking a spike in prices.”

The WRA – which represents 90% of the industry – has responded to the consultation on behalf of the sector but has also encouraged its members to respond individually.

The organisation also said it is in favour of the ‘polluter pays’ and ‘full cost recovery’ principles, recommending that brand owners should be the final points of compliance.

It is also in agreement that local authorities should receive more funding, but argued that they cannot have all of it because there will still need to be enough money in the system to encourage processors to recycle.

The WRA stressed the need to develop UK recycling infrastructure for materials where there is not enough capacity, such as plastics.

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