UK aluminium packaging recycling increased by 15% in 2019

Provisional data published by the UK Environment Agency (EA) on 10 January has indicated that aluminium exceeded the 2019 packaging recycling target of 112,000 tonnes (61%). According to the Aluminium Packaging Recycling Organisation (Alupro), the data shows that 114,748 tonnes were collected for recycling – a 15% increase compared to 2018.

The data indicates that Q4 2019 was the strongest of the year and the highest-ever reported over the 12-month period, with 34,000 tonnes of aluminium packaging being recycled. Rick Hindley, executive director for Alupro, said: “The data clearly demonstrates another impressive increase in the volumes of aluminium packaging collected and recycled – we anticipate that the final reported figure will be higher, which has been the case in previous years.

“It is excellent news that the target has been exceeded and the sustained growth of aluminium packaging recycling continues, but the data again clearly suggests that the aluminium PRN market has been distorted.”

Quarterly data by the EA in 2019 has suggested that a significant volume of packaging recovery notes (PRNs) were being raised but not issued. As a result, PRN prices have inflated; reaching over £500 (€592) per tonne and “undermining the credibility” of aluminium has a material with solid recycling credentials, according to Alupro.

“The abnormally high PRN price has significantly impacted producers and once again brings into question the system itself. Aluminium is a sustainable material, yet the market distortion caused by organisations holding back PRNs in order to force prices to artificially high levels undermines the aluminium packaging industry.

“We are eager to see what additional investment to support further increases in aluminium packaging recycling and collection will result from the hugely increased revenues received by some aluminium recyclers and exporters last year.”

A joint letter was sent to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in December 2019 highlighting concerns shared across the retail food and drink manufacturers and packaging manufacturers, including the British Retail Consortium and Food and Drink Federation, regarding the negative impact of the PRN price increases.

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