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The imminent challenge of the EU’s circular economy package, seeking full or partial net cost recovery of collection, sorting and reprocessing and significantly higher packaging recycling targets, has prompted Defra’s Advisory Committee on Packaging (ACP) to conclude that the PRN system is “unsuitable in its current form”, as recently reported by Materials Recycling World (MRW)*.

ACP acknowledges that the current regime of shared responsibility, fee system and compliance schemes should be a valid part of any future system for packaging waste. But its report to Defra seeks “a fundamental shift away from a purely market-driven system to some centralised funding and delivery for long-term sustainability objectives”.

The group is calling for better communications; more strategic funding; incentives for smarter design and material use; and the involvement of a wider range of businesses in the system but it warns that UK-based reprocessing activities may need “pump-priming” through a strategic investment fund.

ACP chair Phil Conran said: “With all the uncertainty around Brexit, determining a future course for the Packaging Waste Regulations has been challenging. It is clear that packaging is at a crossroads and a more strategic producer responsibility approach is required to reduce the environmental impact of packaging while maintaining all its benefits. The ACP has taken a balanced approach that seeks to achieve this through evolution rather than revolution, and I am very grateful for all the hard work that the members have contributed to this.”

The report notes that the current recent import controls imposed by China show the “vulnerability” of UK reprocessing capacity.

“The need for reform of the PRN system along the lines described in the paper is increasingly widely recognised by producers in order to deliver a future system that is fair, proportionate, has limited administrative cost and, above all, will deliver an environmentally beneficial outcome,” the report says.

The report outlines the following key ingredients considered necessary for future sustainable growth:

  • a high-profile national communications programme
  • predictable strategic funding
  • incentives for eco-design and disincentives for high-impact materials that will adversely affect the UK’s resource efficiency performance
  • involvement of a wider range of businesses in the system

“Future targets must take into account the eco-impact of packaging materials to deliver scientifically based targets with long-term sustainability at its core rather than politically driven recycling targets,” it concludes.

* https://www.mrw.co.uk/latest/packaging-advisers-call-for-prn-shake-up/10026634.article