The Packaging & Packaging Waste Directive
As part of a continuous drive for improved environmental responsibility, the EU and UK government have initiated a Packaging & Packaging Waste Directive. These regulations are designed to attack the unnecessary wastage of all types of packaging, with the objective of increasing recycling and re-use across the board.
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Businesses involved in the manufacturing, importing and selling of certain products remain responsible for those products when they become waste.
These regulations are the means by which the UK can meet the targets of the Packaging & Packaging Waste Directive. With regard to packaging, obligated ‘producers’ are companies with an annual turnover of £2 million and above, and who handle in excess of 50 tonnes of packaging every year. These organisations must pay for a proportion of the UK recycling and re-use obligations.
Organisations are able to join a compliance scheme to deal with their obligation for them; alternatively they can register directly with enforcement authorities such as the Environment Agency, Scottish Environmental Protection Agency, or Environment & Heritage Service. There are fees for registering with an agency and through a scheme: these vary depending on the organisational size of the registrant and the authority that they are registering to.
- A chain of shops supplied by UK wholesalers, selling products that make up over 50 tonnes of glass, plastic, and metal.
- A food manufacturer who fills over 50 tonnes of plastic trays with cardboard outers.
- A manufacturer of pallets, who builds over 50 tonnes of pallets annually.
- A trading company that imports products to sell on to retailers.
A number of companies have been prosecuted for failing to fulfill their obligations as packaging producers. The authorities are now encouraged to evaluate the accuracy of data submitted by obligated companies and seek out offenders.
Companies fulfil their payment obligation by buying Packaging Waste Recovery Notes (PRNs) or Packaging Waste Export Recovery Notes (PERNs).
These have a fluctuating open market value, which changes with demand for these notes in relation to the supply of recycled material. The price of PRNs/PERNs also depends on the UK recycling targets set for that year and the number of companies registered or compliance schemes already purchased.
Upon registration, an obligated company must submit accurate data about the amount of packaging that they handled over the previous year. The targets are then applied to this information, and the organisation must provide evidence that the right weight of packaging has been recycled. This evidence is in the form of PRNs, and can be obtained from sites that recycle and reprocess packaging products. PERNs are slightly different in that they are generated by organisations that export material for recycling and re-use.
A statement from Gov.uk:
“The recovery and recycling targets set by the original Directive for packaging waste were revised in 2004 by an amending Directive 2004/12/EC, increasing the recycling targets to be met by Member States by 2008 to 60% overall recovery of packaging waste; 55% minimum to 80% maximum recycling of packaging waste. The amending Directive also set material specific recycling targets by weight, as follows: glass (60%), paper and board (60%), metals (50%), plastics (22.5%), and wood (15%). The UK achieved these targets at the end of 2008 and in some cases exceeded them, but must now at least maintain these levels.”