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The Grapevine

The WSTA's views, distilled.

The great glass rollercoaster

A case study into how the WSTA works for its members.

At the beginning of 2012 the cost of recycling glass, more specifically the cost of glass Packaging Recovery Notes (PRN), stood at a stable average of £10 per tonne. However a combination of tougher recycling targets from the Department of Environment and failures in the PRN market saw this price rocket to a peak in 2013 of £85 per tonne, a staggering 850% increase.

At first one or two members highlighted this issue to us, hugely concerned about the impact this was having and, in one instance, threatening the future viability of a  business.  After further inquiry it became clear that this wasn’t just a minor issue affecting a few people, but a cost burden that was having a major impact on cash flow and producers’ bottom lines across the trade. We calculated that when PRN prices were at their peak, producers had to find an additional £51m per year to cover the costs.

We knew we needed to act and so the WSTA took a leading role in co-ordinating the response across the trade. First, we coordinated an industry lobby of the then Minister which led to a review of glass recycling by the Advisory Committee on Packaging in 2013.  The review concluded, amongst others, that the recycling targets had been based on a significant over-estimation of the amount of glass circulating.  In a nutshell, businesses had to recycle more than they needed to and this was putting a strain on the supply chain forcing prices up.

We were delighted that the Minister took on board our concerns and the Department announced earlier this year it would revise downwards both the estimate for the amount of waste glass produced annually and also the business recycling rates for glass. The recycling rate for obligated businesses came down from 81% to 75% in 2014.  

We then looked to address the failures in the PRN market. A major criticism of the PRN system has been a lack of transparency about PRN prices which has undermined industry confidence in the system. In order to make this more transparent, the WSTA has now launched a dedicated website page for our members that will provide weekly updates, in partnership with The Environment Exchange, of PRN prices.

WSTA Members can access the prices here: http://www.wsta.co.uk/packaging-recovery-note-prices

Now they will be able to see what else is happening in the market and whether the prices they are paying their current compliance scheme are in line with the market price. In addition we are working with complydirectto develop a compliance scheme specifically tailored for the needs of WSTA members.

This action has thankfully helped to bring a costs down to a more acceptable level, now nearly to £20 per tonne, significantly easing the pressure on the trade. While we cannot always foresee when an issue like PRNs occur, when they do the WSTA is on hand to support our members to navigate them as best we can.

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