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Packaging recycling targets confirmed for next two years

Fundamental changes to the packaging targets will change the dynamics of the markets for the final two years of the system as we know it.

Defra has announced the packaging recycling targets for 2021 and 2022, with a couple of key fundamental changes compared to previous years.

Despite the delay in releasing the packaging recycling targets, the industry are pleased that there has been no further delays, which will allow producers and compliance schemes to focus on the impact of the changes to the market for 2021.

The 2019 consultation set out proposed targets and considering the unprecedented year the economy has faced, the following targets have been approved and will be enforced for 2021 and 2022.

Here are the key points about the new targets you need to know:

Removal of the recovery target

One of the fundamental changes to the targets has been the removal of the recovery target altogether. This means that waste to energy sites cannot be accredited and will not be able to issue PRNs after this current compliance year. Recovery PRNs contributed to 8% of the overall recovery target which equates to approximately 610,000 tonnes in 2020.

The reason for this change is that the EU Circular Economy Package clarifies that there will no longer be an EU member state target for material recovery and Defra have chosen to follow this approach.

Material specific targets

Paper, Aluminium and Wood recycling targets for 2021 and 2022 are confirmed as those proposed in the 2019 consultation. However, Glass, Steel and Plastic recycling targets have been reduced.

Another fundamental change to the targets is the increase in the glass remelt percentage split of the overall glass recycling target, from 67% to 72%. The increase in the remelt target translates to approximately 100,000 tonnes of additional glass remelt PRNs to be produced next year which could be quite challenging. 

Recalibration for next year

Head of policy, Robbie Staniforth, commented “It's a relief that the targets have finally been released so that the markets can begin the process of recalibration for next year. Earlier in the year, we supported the Government’s proposal to delay their decision so that COVID-19 impacts could be assessed and factored in. However, with 2021 less than two months away, the industry was starting to get nervous."

"Looking more specifically at the substance of the targets, it is pleasing to see that the Government have taken much of the commentary provided by industry experts into account when making their final decision. The progressive, but ultimately unrealistic, targets proposed for some materials in last year’s consultation have been modified down to a more realistic level. Aggressively increasing targets where there is no additional UK capacity could simply have led to yet more export of low quality material."

"It is disappointing to see wood recyclers become collateral damage as a result of the Government’s parallel Renewable Heat Incentive scheme but hopefully the increased overall recycling target will help to cushion some of this blow for the sector."

"Recovery PRNs have been an added incentive to keep material out of landfill to date but now feels like the right time to remove this incentive in line with the resource hierarchy. However, although incentives to burn packaging waste work counter to reduction, reuse and recycling goals, they may yet return in the new extended producer responsibility system as a consequence of producers being expected to cover the full net cost of their packaging’s lifetime. We look forward to engaging further with Government on this topic in the coming months to iron out any unintended consequences.”

Looking ahead

Ecosurety will continue to communicate the changes in the PRN market throughout the year.  The impact of Brexit to the export of waste is still unknown, however exporters are already feeling the pinch as shipping container costs continue to rise daily due to the imbalance of supply and demand. Pressure is beginning to mount at Felixstowe port as panic buying and Brexit concern is leading to congestion on the ground, which is leading to an increase in costs.

If you would like to speak with Ecosurety about how the targets could impact your organisation, please contact our team.


Sandeep Attwal

Procurement manager

Sandeep joined the procurement team in April 2019 and works in the role of procurement manager. Sandeep builds and maintains strategic relationships with our key service partners, whilst creating new relationships and initiatives to improve UK recycling. 


Written by Sandeep Attwal Published 16/11/2020 Topics Packaging

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