Soaring PRN prices highlight importance of national reform
According to half-year data published by the Environment Agency in August, the UK continues to report impressive aluminium packaging recycling volumes.
More than 72,319 tonnes were collected for recycled in the period January-June. Over 70% (50,361) came through kerbside and household waste recycling centres (HWRCs), while 20,313 came through incinerator bottom ash (IBA) recovery, and 1,375 via other routes.
Despite a slight year-on-year decrease in volumes for the first half of 2022, annual predictions remain positive, with the UK tracing ahead of its annual business recycling target (69%) and once again on course to surpass its current obligated business tonnage (141,415).
However, while the data overall looks very positive, this isn’t reflected by increasingly volatile packaging recovery note (PRN) prices. With current values exceeding £200 per tonne, the market is hugely unreflective of high national capture rates.
Tom Giddings, executive director of Alupro, commented: “To date in 2022, aluminium packaging recycling volumes are – once again – looking healthy. A slight decrease in volumes was expected and, in part, can be accounted to the time lag in data reporting interacting with Covid-induced changes to recycling amounts and market size.
“Even so, the numbers look positive and we remain firmly on track to hit current obligated business tonnage targets. What’s more, with high producer demand for infinitely recyclable aluminium packaging, the aluminium packaging market continues to expand rapidly – yet more positive news.”
Giddings continued: “PRN prices, however, are unreflective of this scenario. A key reason behind inflated values is a lack of data, which stems from a number of leading producers having failed to submit their obligated tonnages by the regulatory deadline in April. Some producers have still not submitted their packaging data returns, close to six months past the deadline.
“In addition, evidence is not making itself available to market fast enough, which is resulting in an artificially inflated price. We’re confident that enough material is being recycled to meet the 2022 targets, but concerned at the rate at which PRNs are being released to the open market.
“Healthy recycling rates in the coming quarter will hopefully work to resolve this challenging situation, with PRN supply to the market set to increase and prices predicted to return to a more sensible level. Even so, it’s important to remember that this isn’t an isolated incident. Time and time again, the industry is challenged by artificial pricing.
“These market pressures reinforce the mandate for PRN market reform and the introduction of a more robust approach in the future. We therefore eagerly await the government’s long overdue reform proposals and hope it will prove the catalyst to a better designed system.
“It is also now clear that, alongside the proposed PRN reforms, a review of accurate data enforcement measures is needed to encourage timely submissions from producers. The current £110 late resubmission fee is simply insufficient, and in need of significant change if we are to have increased transparency under the PRN system in the future.
“As we move into Q3 and Q4, the priority is simple. With more and more aluminium packaging entering the marketplace and being consumed both at home and on-the-go, we need to ensure that material that can be recycled is recycled. Ideally, this will work to counterbalance the current volatility of PRN pricing.”