A 600% increase in plastic tax that will add to climate change!

Does this government care at all about Climate Change?

This was the first thought that I had when I was told that the latest price for a plastic PRN is now £450 per tonne.

For those uninitiated in the jargon, a plastic PRN is a Packaging Recovery Note which, 12 months ago, would have cost £62 per tonne and which would right now cost £450 per tonne.

This is a legal obligation and the tonnage charged depends on a calculation devised by the Environmental Agency. A plastic PRN is now more than double the cost of most virgin material and has reached a level which will see many companies in the plastic packaging industry losing money, others make closures, and some suffer bankruptcy!  Consider this, in 2018 a total of 932,670 PRN’s were issued for plastics, each of those are now £388 more expensive than Q1 2018. That is a tax increase over the next 12 months of at least £361,875,960.

Compare this £450 per tonne with the cost of PRN’s for alternative packaging and materials;

  • PRN’s for Paper are at £16.50 per tonne
  • PRN’s for Glass are at £22.00 per tonne
  • PRN’s for Aluminium are at £145 per tonne

All of these materials generate more CO2 emissions in their sourcing, manufacture, distribution, etc, than plastic. For example, according to the Northern Island Assembly, it takes four times as much energy to manufacture a paper bag compared to a plastic bag and creates 70% more polluted air. Whilst, the mining, crushing and smelting of aluminium is one of the most energy intensive and most polluting manufacturing processes on Earth.

It is difficult to think of any other product in the UK other than plastic which could be subjected to a 600% tax price increase without a public outcry for Government intervention to control the escalation in cost. However, such is the public’s current perception of plastic, particularly plastic packaging, the media will probably applaud this increase as an encouragement to the retailers and food manufacturers to change their packaging to alternative materials.

Whilst the environment agency is allegedly increasing its enforcement of Reprocessing accreditations for plastic, at £450 per tonne the generation of fraudulent plastic PRN’s is an invitation to criminals to join the recycling business.

It should be noted that the agency invariably does not prosecute those not complying with the scheme but usually just suspends their accreditation until the correct paperwork is available.

These PRN’s are designed as a tax on material manufacturers and distributors to ensure the UK meets its Recycling targets. In the case of Plastic, the current extortionate price simply reflects the UK Local Authorities long term lack of investment in plastic recycling and their willingness to simply export the problem to the third world. The decision by China to cease imports of waste plastic has shown how misguided this policy was.

We now have a situation where the escalating cost of supplying plastic packaging will force companies to consider the use of alternative materials which will undoubtably increase Climate Change.

All plastic packaging is capable of being recycled. The food manufactures and the food retailers all know this. They also understand that recycling plastic is the most environmentally beneficial and the most cost effective solution to its end of life treatment.  Unfortunately, none of them at the moment are prepared to make the case for using plastic packaging. Instead, they are appeasing the public by adopting environmentally inferior materials which are more expensive for plastic replacement. At some point this policy will have to be reversed as they know it creates more food waste. Meanwhile, those companies that supply plastic packaging in all its forms are being punished financially and vilified by the media.

As ever your views on any of the items included in these notes would be welcomed.