PRN Market Update: May 2023

Lots of used cardboard boxes stacked on top of each other

With the prices fluctuating for PRNs, it can be hard to keep track of what’s happening. 2022 was a difficult year for packaging recycling. Across all the materials, prices were the highest they’ve been for over two decades. Now, through the year end prices, we’re able to see just how distressed the market really was.

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What’s happened to the PRN market recently?

The last year was a turbulent year for packaging recycling. Prices were the highest they had been in over 20 years across every material you would need to purchase PRNs for. This was mainly due to recycling obligations increasing but the actual level of recycling decreasing. Last year, the paper obligation increased by over 340,000 tonnes but recycling levels dropped by over 100,000 tonnes, leaving a gap of 440,000 tonnes.

It wasn’t just paper that saw a gap too. There was a similar situation with plastic as well. The obligation for plastic increased by 6% while recycling only saw an increase of just under 4%. Compliance in the UK for plastic was in the balance all year with us only just making it at a small surplus worth three days recycling tonnage.

A graph to illustrate the PRN market. IT shows that for paper, obligation increased but recycling levels decreased
A graph to illustrate the PRN market. It shows that, for plastic, obligation increased by 6% but recycling only increased by 3.8%.

Did the UK comply with the Packaging Waste Regulations?

As a whole, the UK did comply with the regulations. However, they only just made the targets. Looking at the carry forward tonnage, the surplus PRNs from December recycling that can be carried over to the next year, you can see exactly how we only just made it. In 2021, we carried over 503,000 tonnes of PRNs into 2022. However, in 2022, we carried forward only 141,000 tonnes of PRNs. And while that might sound like a lot, this would only really cover just under a week’s worth of recycling. Because of a smaller carry forward tonnage, the UK will need to see much higher levels of recycling this year to meet the obligations if they’re the same as the previous year.

The Packaging Waste Regulations are changing. Is your business ready? Check out our EPR guide to find out more!

Key points to note from the PRN market in Q1 of 2023:

  • The levels of paper recycling in Q4 of 2022 recovered and have remained strong throughout Q1 of 2023. This is on the back of historically high prices for PRNs so it’s an indicator that recycling levels will remain high.
  • However, this isn’t the case for every material and can’t guarantee that recycling levels will remain high. Plastic recycling has dropped by 27,000 tonnes in Q1 of 2023 when compared to Q4 of 2022 despite record high prices.
A graph showing how much paper was recycled in thousands of tonnes across 2022 and the first quarter of 2023. This will directly affect the PRN market
A graph showing how much plastic was recycled in thousands of tonnes across 2022 and the first quarter of 2023. This will directly impact the PRN market.

Graphs for other materials show similar patterns. For concerns about other materials, contact our experts today to learn more!

In summary

It’s clear to see that PRN prices have remained high in the start of 2023, on the back of record level high prices in 2022. If recycling levels for paper continue to sit at a high level, prices will likely reduce. However, one bad quarter could cause an escalation in prices. In order for plastic PRN prices to come down, there needs to be much higher levels of recycling otherwise prices will rise further. If there’s a reduction in obligation, it may help but overall, more sustained levels of recycling are needed this year to keep prices under control.

Contact us

Navigating the Packaging Waste Regulations can be tricky. That’s where Flame UK comes in. Our team of experts can help your business calculate its obligations and procure PRNs at the best prices to keep you compliant. Get in touch with one of our experts today to find out more.

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