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recyclers have their say on changes to the glass recycling target

29th October 2013

Following on from the GlassFlow report (17 October) Defra plan to launch a consultation into whether to reduce the glass packaging recycling obligation target. The current target is set at 81% but with the GlassFlow report identifying evidence to suggest that this target was based upon inaccurately reported placed on the market data the current target could be unfair in its representation of glass recycling capabilities of the UK. Lowering the Glass recycling target from 81% to 77% could potentially better reflect the UK glass recycling potential as the glass placed on the market in 2012 was closer to 2.4 million tonnes rather than the 2.75 million tonnes on which the 81% target has been based.

The decision to consult on reducing the target has been met with conflicting views from UK recyclers. Tim Gent of glass recycling firm Recresco told Let's Recycle that a potential reduction in glass recycling target is “absolutely ridiculous… a target is something you aim for not something you met last year”.

“What is the point of having a PRN if they reduce the targets? Either you put a target there that is a challenge for you, or you don’t have one.”

Mr Gent supports a lowering of the target to 77% if the glass recycling from re-melt target was increased to 75% from 63% of the total glass recycled in the UK. “If you increase the remelt target and then decrease the overall target I could see the benefit there. All of the value would then move to the remelt PRN, and we need to be recycling more glass through remelt.” He added.

Some recyclers have implied that the consultation could be a positive move in bringing down glass PRN prices, which have experienced very high market prices throughout the first three quarters of 2013. The PRN obligation for 2014 if reduced could result in more available PRNs in the market, lessen competition for their purchase and could therefore reduce the cost to packaging producers with a glass obligation.

Other recyclers do not see reduced Glass PRN prices as a good thing as they believe it could discourage any push in the industry that could later be required to recover more glass to meet the target should targets change again or a shortfall be identified towards the end of the reporting year.

Bill Griffiths, Recycling Manager at Viridor, told Let's Recycle that high targets add value to investment and investment improves the potential for more facilities to move from aggregate reprocessing to remelt. Mr Griffiths added: “Suddenly we don't have that value because if the target comes down the value of the PRN will go through the floor and then there's no money to invest in processing and moving from aggregate to remelt.”

Gareth Roberts, Managing Director of producer compliance scheme Comply Direct, commented on a reduction in the price of Glass PRNs from the point of view of Glass obligated packaging compliance scheme members as it would drastically reduce their costs: “Producers with a Glass obligation would certainly benefit on a financial level from a reduction in the total UK PRN obligation but it is clear to see that the benefits may not be felt equally across the recycling industry.”

“On a whole, the prices experienced so far in 2013 for Glass PRNs have been at unprecedented and consistent high levels and have presented producers with an increased financial burden. However, should the high Glass PRN costs be re-invested into improving the glass recycling facilities in the UK then producers could see more sustainable and predictable prices for Glass PRNs in the future which could benefit the entire industry.”

Comply Direct have communicated to Packaging compliance members on the fluctuations in the glass PRN market throughout 2012 and 2013 and continue to offer comprehensive advice regarding recycling and data collection for Glass obligated members despite industry pressures to ensure that the scheme constantly provide the best way for members to remain compliant.

For more information regarding Glass PRNs, packaging compliance or the Defra consultation please do not hesitate to get in contact with the Comply Direct team.