Packaging recovery: a faltering UK experiment with market mechanisms

An experiment in market mechanisms for achieving environmental policy objectives began in January, when the environment agencies' regime of "packaging waste recovery notes" (PRNs) spluttered into life. Revenue from the sale of PRNs is intended to be invested in new waste collection, sorting and reprocessing capacity which is needed to ensure that the UK meets targets set by EC legislation. Early indications, however, are that a significant share of PRN funds will simply go towards bolstering profits for paper mills, waste-to-energy plants and other reprocessors, many of whom have no intention of increasing recycling or recovery levels.

The duty to "take reasonable steps" to recover and recycle packaging waste, set out in last year's packaging regulations, sounds straightforward enough. This year it will affect around 4,000 businesses manufacturing or using more than 50 tonnes of packaging and with sales above £5 million (ENDS Report 264, p 30-32 

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