The Wood Recyclers’ Association (WRA) is calling on DEFRA not to change its packaging waste recycling targets for wood, amid fears a proposed reduction will impact negatively on the sector.

The call is part of the WRA’s response to DEFRA’s consultation on the UK packaging producer responsibility system (EPR), which closed yesterday (Monday).

In its response, the WRA has called upon DEFRA to review its proposed targets for the recycling of wood packaging, which decrease up to 2030. DEFRA say this is because wood packaging placed on the market will increase at a higher rate than the tonnage of wood being recycled.

However the WRA, which represents over 90% of the UK waste wood industry, does not agree.

It fears lowering the targets will take the momentum out of the recent positive steps it has seen in packaging-wood-waste moving up the waste hierarchy of reuse, recycling and recovery.

In addition, it has highlighted in its EPR response its support for the current system of the recycling of wooden packaging, and backed the requirement to make the governance of the PRN system more transparent.

Julia Turner, Executive Director of the WRA, said: “In a previous consultation the WRA  had recommended that wood packaging targets should be increased and this happened. However, these latest proposals seem to be reversing that decision to reflect lowered EU targets.    

“We believe this proposal has been driven by the high wood PRN prices in 2018, which have already steadied at a more acceptable level due to the economic forces of supply and demand, with more waste wood packaging being recycled in 2019 and much lower wood PRN prices.  This highlights that wood packaging targets could continue to be increased in further years without risking a spike in prices,” added Julia.

Overall, the WRA’s response to the consultation supported changes being proposed at a strategic level to encourage increased reuse and recycling of packaging waste, increased packaging recyclability, a higher level of recycled content in new packaging and less littering of packaging waste.

“We believe the current system for the recycling of wooden packaging waste is working, but we also support the requirement to make the governance of the PRN system more transparent,” said Julia.

“We therefore support Option 1 in the consultation, in terms of the proposed new governance models. This is an enhanced, near-to-business-as-usual model, with continued compliance schemes.  We have also agreed that this would require a Packaging Advisory Board to oversee the EPR system and the compliance schemes.”

The WRA has responded to the consultation on behalf of the sector as a whole, but it has also encouraged its members to respond directly.

More generally, the WRA supported the principles of ‘polluter pays’ and ‘full cost recovery’, recommending that it should be the brand owner who is the final point of compliance and, whilst agreeing that local authorities should receive more funding for packaging recycling, pointing out that if all the money goes to recyclers there will not be enough money in the system to encourage processors to recycle. It has also stressed there is a requirement to develop more UK recycling infrastructure for those materials were there is currently not enough capacity, for example plastics. 

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