A recent change to the Packaging Recovery Note (PRN) system is creating difficulties for the aluminium industry trying to meet recycling targets, according to recycling body Alupro.
The latest quarterly data from the Environment Agency (EA) shows that 14,871 tonnes of aluminium were accepted or exported from January to March 2015 whereas the obligation was 18,810 tonnes.
Rick Hindley, executive director of Alupro, left, said that, until this year, protocols recognised an amount of aluminium packaging contributed by scrap metal dealers, but that was no longer the case.
This is because aluminium packaging is increasingly collected by local authorities. In 2014, Alupro demonstrated that dealers contributed a smaller proportion of such material than was previously assumed.
“A new protocol was developed which said that 50% of non-ferrous material recovered from incinerator bottom ash (IBA) is packaging,” he said.
“The tonnage reported for aluminium packaging recovered from IBA is significantly below the level we know has been recycled or exported.”
Hindley believes that the figures have been distorted for two reasons:
- Many who have applied for accreditation since the beginning of the new protocols in January have not yet been approved and are therefore unable to issue PRNs.
- A significant proportion of operators in the aluminium sector have not applied to be accredited, so material processed by them will not be subject to the PRN system.
Hindley added: “The PRN revenue [currently £8-£10 per tonne] is relatively small compared with the value of the material so, if they have to go through huge hoops to get accredited, it’s just not worth their while.”
In March, a delegation of Alupro members met the EA to discuss making the system more robust so that all recycled aluminium packaging is properly recorded. Proposals included:
- making accreditation to issue PRNs/PERNs part of the environmental permitting regime
- recognition of the ISO 14001 international environmental standard in the reprocessor/exporter application process, thereby removing duplication of information and administrative effort
“Unless and until these changes are implemented we will continue to be at risk of volatile PRN prices and obligated companies will face significantly higher PRN costs when, in reality, more than enough aluminium packaging is being actually being recycled to meet the targets,” said Hindley.