Letsrecycle : PRN accreditations down 14% on last year


Under the PRN system, everyone involved in the packaging supply chain has to pay towards the cost of recycling it by purchasing PRNs from accredited reprocessors and exporters.

But, data on the Environment Agency’s National Packaging Waste Database on Friday (April 15) shows that 359 companies have so far become accredited to issue PRNs in 2011. This is 14% lower than the 418 businesses which were registered at the same time last year (April 15 2010) for 2010.


Companies reprocessing and exporting wood, steel, aluminium and plastics account for the majority of those which have dropped off the list.

There are also 26 fewer ‘large’ reprocessors and exporters – those who are accredited to issue PRNs for more than 400 tonnes of packaging waste.

The trend has been linked to the low prices of PRNs which are currently trading at around £1 a tonne for wood and paper while plastics PRNs are fetching around £2-3 and glass around £10. Steel and aluminium PRNs are trading at around £7 and £15 a tonne respectively.

The reason for the low prices is that demand for PRNs is low, largely because the packaging recycling targets which businesses have to meet have hardly been raised at all this year (see letsrecycle.com story).


While they still have until December to register, the decline in companies which are accredited to issue PRNs means that thousands of tonnes of packaging waste recycling has already fallen outside of the PRN system this year and will not be accounted for. This could make it potentially harder for obligated businesses and compliance schemes to meet their recycling targets and could see PRNs regain more value.

The operator of one compliance scheme told letsrecycle.com that another factor which might tighten up the market was if obligated businesses were found to have placed more packaging on the market last year. This information is used to calculate obligations for 2011 and in turn determines demand for PRNs. Final  obligation data is due to be published on May 17.

He said: “We are seeing about 5% increase in members obligation so tonnages available may become tighter as the year goes on.”

Companies accredited to issue PRNs in April 2010 and April 2011

Date Large reprocessors Large exporters Small reprocessors Small exporters Total
April 15, 2010 131 163 46 78 418
April 15, 2011 108 138 54 59 359


The accreditation figures have emerged just a few weeks after data showed that obligated businesses met their packaging recycling targets for 2010 (see letsrecycle.com story).

However, the amount of packaging which was recorded as recycled on the National Packaging Waste Database fell for the first time since the Packaging Regulations were introduced – something which one commentator told letsrecycle.com he believed was also a sign of reprocessors and exporters ‘not bothering’ with the PRN system – rather than any fall in actual recycling.

He said: “Reprocessors and exporters don’t need to record any recycling they do on the National Packaging Waste Database as it is a voluntary system. In the past, when the value of PRNS was higher, people have put everything they could onto the system but now I don’t think some have bothered.”

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For its part, the Environment Agency downplayed the fall in recycling and said it anticipated that this would be made up for in the figures from the first quarter of 2011.

A spokeswoman said: “Overall recycling and recovery rates are up and targets were exceeded. There is a slight dip in glass rates due to the temporary suspension of a glass recycling company and the bad weather towards the end of 2010 which has affected the total rates. This glass recycling will be reflected in the quarter 1 2011 figures.”