The British Plastics Federation's (BPF) recycling group has written to Defra junior minister Richard Benyon, about the urgent need to reform the PRN system.
“With the recent ministerial re-shuffle ministers are likely to be taking stock but it is crucial that they follow through by capitalising on the opportunity to improve UK recycling infrastructure, which we believe will be fundamental to achieving recycling targets going forward,” said the group's chairman Roger Baynham.
The recycling group wants a producer responsibility system that encourages reprocessing in the UK rather than the export of unprocessed waste.
“The case is extremely compelling,” said Baynham. “On the one hand corporate social responsibility programmes call for brand owners and retailers to incorporate more recycled materials in their products, yet as an industry we have been over-dependent on exports, which have focussed on volume rather than quality of outputs.”
The BPF recycling group is concerned that as Asian markets continue to weaken and are therefore less able to absorb our waste there is a real danger that 2012 targets might not be met.
With very challenging targets the logical consequence will be escalating PRN/PERN values, argues the BPF. This will add significant cost for everyone in the supply chain all the way down to the retailer.
There is a real concern that PERNs will simply be used as a mechanism to subsidise exports to a point where such waste materials become competitive on world markets.
“There is no doubt that the current system works in favour of waste exporters to the disadvantage of the UK recycler,” explained Baynham.
“Not only that, but our members are worried that high PRN/PERN values will incentivise unscrupulous players to pass off unobligated packaging as packaging waste, so the current system would become in effect a ‘cheaters charter'.
“The quality of raw materials available to our members is of absolutely paramount importance,” he added. “Increased PERN values will only serve to incentivise contamination and drive down quality and undermine the good work already done.”