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Is your packaging waste being exported overseas?

The group behind Princes Tuna has turned its back on the exporting of UK packaging waste overseas, saying that firms paying into the waste export system are undermining UK recycling.

The group behind Princes Tuna has turned its back on the exporting of UK packaging waste overseas, saying that firms paying into the waste export system are undermining UK recycling.

Under Packaging Producer Responsibility requirements, UK businesses with a turnover of more than £2 million that handle at least 50 tonnes of packaging a year have to pay into a system for the recovery of their packaging waste.

Whether through a compliance scheme or individually, companies must acquire packaging recovery notes (PRNs) or packaging export recovery notes (PERNs) from waste processors to prove that they are contributing to recycling in the UK or overseas. 

Export addiction

The UK is currently unable to process all of the waste it produces, so around two thirds of plastic packaging waste is exported to other countries. Proving what actually happens to the waste after it leaves the country is difficult.

The Environment Agency is understood to be investigating instances of widespread fraud in the waste industry, while a recent Greenpeace investigation discovered UK plastic waste at several illegal dump sites in Malaysia. The problem has previously been highlighted by Stockport recycling specialist Axion.

The Princes Group, which owns Princes Tuna and several other household food brands, decided at the start of 2018 that it would no longer purchase any export recovery notes, therefore paying into UK recycling only.

The company has now revealed that its decision has contributed around £750,000 to the UK recycling industry to date, while ensuring it was not contributing to waste problems overseas. 

‘Improving UK recycling’

“By purchasing export PRNs, businesses are moving potential investment into the UK’s recycling capacity overseas. At a time when single-use packaging is under such heavy scrutiny, we need to improve the UK’s ability to recycle sustainably”, explained David McDiarmid, corporate relations director at Princes Group.

The government announced in its Autumn Budget that the Packaging Producer Responsibility System will soon be “reformed” as part of its forthcoming Resources and Waste Strategy.