Speculation is mounting over the possibility that users of biodegradable plastics will be able to waive the cost of PRNs under the revised EU packaging waste directive.
The directive, due to be finalised this Autumn, is set to include organic recycling of biodegradable plastics under the definition of recycling. This has led some manufacturers of biodegradable plastics to question whether there will be a greater incentive to choose compostable materials over conventional plastics.
Michael Stevens of biodegradable plastics producer Symphony Environmental reasons that if you have a recognised recycling plant then you do not have to buy PRNs. He said: “It follows that if you are using biodegradable plastics that come under the revised recycling definition then you have fulfilled your obligation. That is the way Brussels sees it.”
A spokesperson for DEFRA, however, denied that there would be any change in the cost of PRNs for users of biodegradable plastics.
John Turner, chairman of the Advisory Committee on Packaging, confirmed that there has been no investigation into biodegradable packaging in relation to the packaging waste regulations. But said it may be worth looking into if it becomes a substantial growth area.
“The question of whether you can reduce the cost of PRNs through biodegradable plastics comes down to life cycle. You need to look at what is degradable”
John Turner, ACP chairman
“The question of whether you can reduce the cost of PRNs through biodegradable plastics comes down to life cycle. You need to look at what is degradable.”
He added: “I doubt that biodegradable plastics will have a huge impact on PRNs in the next few years.”
Compliance scheme Valpak is also sceptical that there will be major change to PRN buying following the review. A spokesperson said: “DEFRA’s consultation paper on changes to the UK packaging regulations contains no indications that there will be a substantial change in materialscovered by the regulations.
“Packaging made from other biodegradable materials, for instance paper, still incurs an obligation, and in our view it is therefore unlikely that plastic will prove an exception.”