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Packaging recycling targets for 2009 set to remain unchanged


Packaging recycling targets for businesses in 2009 look likely to remain unchanged following a meeting of the government's Advisory Committee on Packaging yesterday (January 29), writes Caelia Quinault.

Ministers are currently considering the Committee's advice, and the minutes of the meeting will be published shortly

Defra spokeswoman

The targets were set a year ago and might have been changed because they were based on assumptions made before the recession about how much packaging would be placed on the market. Because of a reduction in economic activity, less packaging - such as cardboard boxes and pallets - was expected to be used across the UK.

The change would have been required because of the complex relationship between the amount that companies are obligated to buy in terms of PRNs (packaging waste recovery notes) and the amount of packaging placed on the market.

At yesterday's meeting, officials from Defra, the Environment Agencies and the packaging industry met to discuss whether the packaging targets should be altered.

After a review of the data available, it is thought to have been agreed that subject to ministerial approval, there was not enough evidence at present to justify a change to the targets - which require that 73% of material is recycled or recovered in 2009. For instance, data from the fourth quarter of 2008 is still being submitted by reprocessors and exporters - making predictions hard.

However, Defra is believed to have resolved to instead concentrate on doing more to make sure there was more information available in advance if things went wrong in future and to put measures in place if they did.

A decision not to change the targets is expected to save Defra from being accused by environmental groups of "kowtowing" to business and abandoning the whole point of PRNs, which is to support recycling. Higher prices and higher demand for PRNs would have put more money into the recycling but would have been a significant cost in a year where the government is concerned about the impacts of the recession on companies.

BERR, the Department for Business, is also thought to have advised Defra that it would not favour unnecessary extra recycling costs imposed on businesses this year.


The reported decision at yesterday's meeting came despite a general consensus that while the 2008 targets was likely to have been met by a reasonably comfortable margin, there is likely to be less carry over, meaning that the targets for 2009 are unlikely to be met.

The problem is compounded by the fact that fewer reprocessors have applied for re-accreditation to issue PRNs than in previous years.

In particular, concern was aired over steel and aluminium - because of the turmoil in the metals markets.

As a result, one source told that Defra was considering doing something such as placing a cap on the price of aluminium and steel PRNs - although the truth of this remains unclear.


Commenting on the meeting, a Defra spokeswoman said: "The Advisory Committee on Packaging met on 29 January to review evidence collected from various sources on the likely amount of packaging placed on the market in 2008 and the amount of packaging likely to become waste in 2009.


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