Ben Richardson on the PRN market: November 2021

Ben Richardson Valpak

What appeared to be a steady cruise into Christmas, for the compliance market, has been disrupted by cancelled plastic PRNs and monthly figures showing a tight remelt market. 

Many of you will have seen the communication by the Environment Agency, late June/early July, reminding buyers of PRNs that it is them who are responsible for replacing any cancelled PRNs.


In the past few weeks there has been several large plastic reprocessors who have been suspended, alongside cancelled plastic PRNs.

This has seen a swift change in the market price, with prices jumping up to £60 within the space of 24 hours and since then there has been a sustained increase up to £90.  

This month’s figures showed processing of 91kt, slightly lower than last month, and compliance will be met, but more than likely with a slightly lower carry forward than first projected.

The challenge at the moment is with all the suspensions occurring, it is unknown how many PRNs will subsequently be cancelled. This is what is driving the market increase, as people look to reduce the risk of having PRNs cancelled, now, and save them having to come back into the market to replace them later in the year.

Prices could begin to ease in the coming weeks, as business cover off the risk and the volume of PRNs cancelled is better understood. 

Conversely the paper PRN market is calm. The monthly figures were up 74kt, compared to last month, and compared to this time last year the UK is 116kt better off. As a result, all of November material will be used for general recycling and carry forward will be maximised for 2022. With the maximum carry forward, it will keep paper prices on the lower side for 2022, unless there is sweeping legislative changes to impact that. 

In the compliance world glass remelt is the hot topic. When I wrote my last piece, prices were at £50.50, but they have absolutely skyrocketed to £190. The highest ever traded price for glass remelt. Reprocessing figures for the month were down, by around 27kt, but it still exceeded the monthly run rates required to comply. The issue is that there will more than likely be a need to use carry forward in 2021 to help comply, rather than pushing it all into next year. This will shorten the position in 2022, while driving up the price in 2021, as has done so already. Glass other, doesn’t have the same challenges and only needs around 62kt to meets its UK obligation, hence the price disparity, with other trading at £6. 

Looking at the other materials, aluminium continues at its expected pace for the year and by the end of November it should meet its obligation, hence the £3 value. Staying with the metals, Steel is following a similar trend of compliance by end of November, with prices hovering around £4. Then wood, which is all being produced for general recycling now, is at 35p after a very strong month of processing. 

Ben Richardson is director of procurement at Valpak

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