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Environment Agency release the verified recycling data for Q4 2020

1st April 2021

Ash Clay

The most recent release of recycling data (25 March 2021) for Q4 2020 from the Environment Agency is now available, which details the progress made by the UK against its recycling targets for the entire 2020 compliance year.

Despite all the global disruption in 2020, the PRN market showed resilience throughout, with the UK able to uphold strong levels of packaging recycling and exporting across the course of the year. This in turn leant itself to more stable PRN markets, and more favourable prices throughout as well. This was very welcome news for all stakeholders after a highly volatile and expensive 2019. It was known from a fairly early stage within 2020 that it was very likely the UK would hit it’s 2020 recycling targets, however the recent data release has now confirmed this.

Table 1: Quarterly recycling levels for the 2019 compliance year alongside total UK obligation

Figure 1.1: Q1-Q4 2020 recycling rates, without the previous year’s carry in included

Figure 1.1: Q1-Q4 2020 recycling rates, without the previous year’s carry in included

The release of the data was much anticipated (despite the general acceptance that the figures would be strong), largely due to the fact we now have access to the ‘carry in’ tonnages. Carry in tonnages are PRNs which have been generated in the month of December, which were not needed to be used in order to hit the 2020 recycling targets. If they are unused, the tonnage will roll over into the next (2021) compliance year. This means that the higher the level of ‘carry in’, the more security we have when starting to offset the next year’s obligation. Generally, a higher carry in level will reduce market pressure and stabilise prices in the short term.

Table 2: Carry in levels for 2020 and for 2021 with difference

As you can see from table 2, the carry in level has once again increased versus this time last year, apart from Energy from Waste (EfW), which are now no longer part of the regulations, and will not be required to be procured in 2021 onward. It’s likely that due to the fact many stakeholders within the PRN system were aware of the likelihood of hitting target quite early within 2020, more packaging waste would have been maximised for reprocessing or export within the month of December, where the PRN evidence for these would command a higher value. As material targets were reached (meaning very little December PRNs would be needed to be used against the 2020 compliance year) and recycling levels remained strong, it meant that the majority of December 2020 generated PRNs have been rolled over and made available for the 2021 compliance year. All levels were improved, but plastic levels were particularly strong which is positive news for all PRN markets at the start of 2021.

The next meaningful set of data will be released in April which will detail the UK’s quarterly progress for Q1 and will give us a sense of how we are performing at this early stage of the year. This will be very interesting to see, as evolving factors such as export effectiveness, easing of lockdown measures and overall UK obligation will begin to play more of a role.

Shortly after the Q1 data release, we will once again be running a PRN market update webinar for packaging members, in which we will update you on the PRN market and latest recycling information, as well as taking a look at other aspects such as the UK’s packaging obligation for 2021. This webinar is on 20 May 2021 at 10am and you can register your free place here. As usual, we will be recording the webinar so if members wish to access this recording and the slides after the webinar has taken place, we can provide this.

We also deliver a monthly packaging communication for members called ‘Inside Look’ in which we provide an update on a host of topics, including the PRN market. Our packaging members can sign-up to receive this report here:

For more information regarding recycling data, PRNs or the PRN market, please don’t hesitate to contact myself (ash@complydirect.com), and for any packaging or personal packaging data or submission related questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with your dedicated account manager.