Committee concerned that Packaging Recovery Notes are leading to poor environmental outcomes

09 March 2018

National Audit Office to review Government oversight of Packaging Recovery Note scheme on behalf of Environmental Audit Committee

The National Audit Office has today announced that it will launch a review of the Government’s oversight of the Packaging Recovery Note scheme. This work will take place following a request from the Environmental Audit Committee, who have concerns that the system is opaque, and could be subject to fraud and non-compliance.

The Environmental Audit Committee has also today published the Government’s response to their report Disposable Packaging: Coffee Cups. The Disposable Packaging inquiry revealed some concerns about the Packaging Recovery Note system. (Contact for further details).

Packaging Recovery Notes

Companies handling any form of packaging – from plastic bottles to cardboard boxes – must ensure that a certain proportion is recycled under the PRN scheme. They meet these obligations by buying recovery notes from recycling companies in the UK, or from companies that export waste for recycling abroad.

The UK Government has already acknowledged the need to reform the PRN scheme. In recent inquiries the Environmental Audit Committee has raised concerns about the lack of transparency over how recovery note revenue is spent and the lack of incentives for eco-design.

There are also concerns about how exported waste is treated once it arrives in destination countries. As such, the Committee has asked the NAO to assess whether Government has good oversight of the PRN scheme’s performance against its objectives, and whether government has taken a robust approach to preventing fraud and non-compliance.

Chair's comments

Mary Creagh, Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, said:

"Packaging waste is contributing to the ever-growing levels of plastic pollution in the UK and abroad. Packaging Recovery Notes are intended to make companies do their bit for recycling, but there is significant concern that PRNs are distorting the market in favour of exports rather than reprocessing in the UK.

"The NAO review will give my Committee an insight into the effectiveness of the PRN system, enabling us to assess whether the Government is taking the right action to ensure high levels of recycling in the UK."

Further information

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