Last reviewed 15 July 2020

Reprocessing firms are calling on the Government to overhaul the UK’s “flawed” and “corrupt” packaging recovery note (PRN) and packaging waste export recovery notes (PERN) systems. 

Plastics reprocessing firm, Bright Green Plastics, which is leading the campaign to reform the current PRN system, has raised concerns over the falling PRN prices which it says are based on “highly questionable” data.

Steve Spencer, Managing Director at Bright Green, told MRW that the PRN price has dropped; “because monthly packaging data suggests recycling targets are being hit, but this data is highly questionable.”

“For starters, the industry doesn't believe the data — we all know the PRN system is flawed and the so-called targets are simply a box-ticking exercise.”

Plastics Recycling Consultant, Bernard Chase, told MRW that the targets used, despite what was claimed for them, did not measure recycling but simply recorded collections which created a need to meet collection targets at any cost and so drove fraud into the system. 

“The system is therefore both corrupt and corrupting in the extreme and there is no one, all the way up the chain to the Government itself, who has any incentive to reform a system that, on the face of it, does what it says on the tin, which is to meet the targets,” Chase added.

The campaign to reform the PRN and PERN system is supported by others in the reprocessing industry, including Aylesbury Granulation Services, UNTHA UK and plastics recycling specialists, who are calling on senior politicians to raise the issues in Parliament.

Yvette Cooper, Former Secretary of State and Current Home Affairs Select Committee, has been asked to lead an urgent review on the PRN system and examine the methods used to collate and report data.

Conservative MP Alec Shelbrooke, will also back the call for an urgent Parliamentary review and has agreed to contact the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, directly about the idea of a direct tax on virgin plastic, following his announcement of a £200 tax on products containing less than 30% recycled plastic earlier this year.

According to Bright Green Plastics, the current PRN and PERN compliance system is causing the reprocessing industry major problems, which threatens the future of the recycling industry, and as a result, will impact both the environment and jobs in the longer term.