UK paper recycling meets government targets
Paper recycling in the UK achieves tremendous carbon savings, and it is good to see this reflected in the recent Defra press release on packaging waste recycling targets.
The paper industry has already exceeded the proposed targets to 2010 and those in the recent consultation up to 2012. The proposed increases to the targets for UK packaging recycling and recovery suggested by Defra will do little to increase the recycling rate of paper packaging further as the paper industry is already achieving a recycling rate of well over 80%. Although there may be a requirement for more PRN’s and PERN’s from the increased general recovery targets, this will have a limited impact on value and will not provide certainty for investment in further UK paper recycling infrastructure.
The existing high paper recycling rate is now a reflection of the ravenous demand which exists for this valuable resource, rather than of the government-set targets. Indeed, the actual recycling rate of UK paper packaging waste is likely to be significantly higher than that declared within the packaging waste regulatory framework, leading to even greater carbon savings than is known to Defra. This will always be a feature of a market based system where the targets have been exceeded, and calls into question why Defra maintains paper within what is a very bureaucratic procedure.
The overall UK paper recovery industry currently exports more than 50% of the material collected and this is no different in the packaging arena, this is the biggest risk to the UK meeting future targets. Global demand remains high, but it is imperative that the UK recovery industry continues to produce a high quality product in order to remain competitive both at home and abroad.
Defra quotes carbon savings based on the recycling of packaging waste materials but makes it clear that many of these savings will have to come from the municipal and household waste streams. Defra must ensure that these packaging recycling carbon savings are not achieved whilst compromising existing carbon savings from the recycling of non-packaging waste streams such as newspaper and magazines and office papers. The paper industry has a real fear that these increased packaging recycling targets for other materials will lead to further development of poor collection techniques such as single stream (co-mingled) collections. The potential impact on non-paper packaging recycling through quality degradation is likely to offset any carbon gains achieved.
CPI fully supports the call from Defra for significant improvements in the collection and sorting arrangements for packaging waste but this must not be looked at in isolation. Non-packaging recovery and recycling must also be borne in mind at all times.