The Environment Agency (EA) has announced plans to reduce inspections at sites issuing packaging waste recovery notes (PRNs) in 2020.

Under current regulations all obligated producers are required to register and provide accurate data on the packaging that’s handled, recovered and recycled in the UK. The EA monitors businesses to ensure packaging producers in England contribute to EU Packaging Directive recovery and recycling targets and that producer compliance schemes fulfil their statutory duties.

In 2019, the EA doubled its PRN compliance inspections in response to criticism levelled at the Government over a lack of oversight over sites issuing PRNs — particularly those exporting material overseas for recycling.

Crucially, EA inspections ensure businesses provide accurate data on how the packaging is handled, recovered and recycled in the UK and that treatment, recovery and export operators comply with accreditation conditions and are not diverted through illegal routes.

A total of 160 site inspections of accredited operators were carried out last year, including all sites identified as high risk (red and amber sites), as well as site inspections of approved compliance schemes. A number of high profile court cases showed the scheme is having some success.

This year, under its revised Packaging producer responsibility monitoring plan 2020, the EA plans to only carry out 110 site inspections which it says is down to staff shortages and restructuring as well as training for new recruits. Robbie Staniforth, Policy Manager at compliance firm Ecosurety, told ENDS that site inspections were an “integral part” in ensuring robust reporting of packaging recycled.”

“When it comes to ensuring the integrity of reporting, using intelligence to conduct unannounced visits are equally, if not more, important,” he added.

The EA insists that all operators identified as high risk will be monitored and site inspections will be directed by risk profiling assessments. The EA will also continue to identify packaging producers who are not registered (freeriders).

Last reviewed 7 January 2020