Minimising the costs of packaging waste

Minimising the costs of packaging waste

BLOG · BY Forest Forever  · 24 Feb 2020

As countries around the world close their borders to UK waste, the cost of recycling and waste management continues to climb. For the timber industry, achieving ‘minimum avoidable waste’ is essential for environmental and business reasons.

Over the last two decades there has been a huge push by both Government and industry to reuse and recycle, with some success. DEFRA reports that UK construction generated 66.2 million tonnes of non-hazardous waste in 2016, of which 91% was recovered.

However, recently aspects of this success are under threat after China closed its borders to 24 types of imported waste in 2018. These import restrictions have since been replicated by other countries, leading to uncertainty about where an 0.6 million tonnes of plastic waste can go.

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This has affected the recycling industry, with the price of Packaging Recycling Notes (PRN), issued by accredited reprocessors and exporters, hitting historic highs over the past year.

According to the Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulations, obligated packaging producers must register with the environmental regulator to provide data for the weight of packaging handled by material type and obtain evidence of compliance. This ‘evidence’ is known as Packaging Recovery Notes (PRNs).

Plastic packaging PRN’s hit £450 a tonne in the middle of last year, an increase of 750% over just 12 months. This has understandably left producers, including in construction, concerned about the rising costs of compliance for their businesses.

While the costs have been on the decline, back down to £320, the timber industry remains a consumer of plastic packaging within the delivery system to keep timber dry and safe from merchant to the work site, and this poses both environmental and economic risks.

The exposure of PRN’s to a shifting international supply chain is not the only potential cost which might come the way of businesses reliant on single use plastics, with policy pieces being investigated by DEFRA including a ‘plastic packaging tax’.

There is also the introduction of the Extended Producer Responsibility system for packaging waste from 2023 to be dealt with, which may include an extension of legislative scope to capture a broader range of enterprises.

Given the journey of timber, as it is broken up, and resold across the market, where it may be wrapped and rewrapped multiple times, Forest Forever, the Timber Trade Federation’s committee focused on sustainability matters, is turning their attention to this issue.

Forest Forever are organising training to enhance the awareness and ability of our members to manage packaging waste. To help us better understand the current approach of the industry, we have released a survey which we encourage you to complete.

By taking on the issue of plastic packaging, we can improve the sustainability of our industry, improve our financial performance, minimise a source of risk on our supply chain, and get ahead of Government targets.

Information from this survey will also help inform the Timber Trade Federation’s future responses on consultations regarding the future of packaging waste, working in concert with our partners across the supply chain.