Packaging recovery targets announced for 2004-08

Material-specific recovery targets for packaging waste between 2004 and 2008 were included in draft regulations laid before Parliament on 19 November. The regulations will also make compliance schemes responsible for their members' recovery obligations, and make statutory the system under which packaging waste recovery notes (PRNs) are used to prove compliance with the regime.

Details of the targets and key provisions of the draft regulations were set out in a press statement by the Environment Department the day after the regulations were laid before Parliament. The final regulations should be published before the end of the year after parliamentary debates in December.

As well as the targets, the draft regulations include most of the changes to the packaging regime proposed in July's consultation paper (ENDS Report 343, pp 41-42 ).

The key provisions bring the PRN and reprocessor accreditation systems into the regulations and make compliance schemes subject to the same penalties as individually registered firms.

  • Recycling and recovery targets: Impending revisions of the EU packaging Directive will almost certainly set overall recovery and recycling targets for 2008 of 60% and 55%, respectively. Material-specific recycling targets will probably be 60% for glass and board, 50% for metals, 22.5% for plastics and 15% for wood. Final agreement on the text is expected before Christmas.

    DEFRA estimates that 52.7% of packaging will be recovered and 47% recycled this year, significantly up from 50.0% and 44.1%, respectively, in 2002. Meeting the targets for 2008 will require an extra 1.3 million tonnes of packaging to be recycled.

    Glass recycling is expected to leap 17% this year from 747,000 to 875,000 tonnes. Much of this is due to a significant increase in collection of mixed glass for aggregates production, as well as more collections from commercial premises.

    Collection and recycling of plastics - much of them for export - are expected to leap a scarcely believable 27% from 331,000 to 420,000 tonnes. The sector is due to be investigated "shortly" in the light of widespread allegations that some PRNs have been issued inappropriately (see pp 19-20 ).

    The material-specific targets (see table) will apply to businesses obligated under the regulations.

    Although the latest figures suggest that the recycling rate for wood is 40%, DEFRA has bowed to pressure to avoid "gold-plating" the Directive and set what are in effect meaningless recycling targets designed to meet the Directive's target of 15%.

    Similarly, the board sector will - in theory - merely have to maintain the status quo. It is expected to recover 2.336 million tonnes this year, and all of the recycling targets leading up to 2008 are actually lower than the current performance of obligated businesses and do not require any additional packaging to be recycled.

    However, the material-specific targets for obligated businesses will not, in themselves, enable the UK to meet its overall recycling and recovery targets of 55% and 60%. They will contribute some 700,000 tonnes - much of it glass - of the 1.3 million tonnes needed. Much of the shortfall is likely to be made up by the board and wood reprocessors.

    Separate targets have been set for steel and aluminium, even though the revised Directive will set a 2008 recycling target for "metals". In allocating the targets for the two materials, DEFRA has tried to achieve a fair balance in respect of the effort likely to be needed to collect material from households.

    Although the Directive will set an overall recycling target for Member States, DEFRA has stuck with its plans not to set overall targets for recycling. Instead, it has set targets for the proportion of the recovery target that must be met through recycling.

    Following the recent European Commission ruling that, in the light of European Court of Justice case law, municipal and clinical waste incinerators no longer count as packaging recovery operations, the 2008 recovery target will have to be achieved almost entirely by recycling. Burning packaging in cement kilns will be able to make a small contribution. Incinerators burning refuse-derived fuel could also contribute to the target, but there are none currently in operation in the UK.

    Incinerator operators will, however, be allowed to continue issuing PRNs against the proportion of packaging estimated to be in mixed household refuse, and obligated businesses will be able to use those PRNs to demonstrate compliance with the UK recovery targets. This is because the Government has set the UK targets at a level expected to meet the Directive's recovery target for 2008.

    Presumably, DEFRA has done this so that incinerator operators can continue to benefit from the windfall subsidy that PRNs provide, and continue to promote their operations as recovery processes. Parliamentary debates on the draft regulations may provide further illumination.

  • Compliance schemes: These will now be legally responsible for the recovery and recycling obligations of their members. They must have specific arrangements in place to monitor members' data and include them in their operational plans.

  • PRN system: The accreditation of reprocessors and exporters, together with the system of PRNs and their equivalent for exports, PERNs, will be brought into the regulations.

  • Data: A new "signing off" provision will require directors to confirm that they have verified their companies' data. Groups of companies submitting data as one registrant will have to pay a premium per subsidiary to cover data monitoring costs.

  • Registration:
    This will be made annual. Updated compliance plans from businesses and schemes will have to be submitted by 31 January to allow the Agency to scrutinise them ahead of registration.

  • Agency fees: The fee structure will be changed to allow the Agencies to recover all their costs. An "additional level of monitoring of data, free riders and reprocessors has also been introduced," according to DEFRA.

  • Internal supply and leased packaging: Subject to further analysis of the amount of such material that could be brought under the regime without increasing significantly the number of obligated firms, this may be brought under the regime in 2005.

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