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Q1 packaging data shows plastic, steel and wood rise

By 28/04/2017News

Latest packaging recycling data published this week has suggested that processing of plastics, wood and steel has increased in the first quarter of 2017, compared to the same period 12 months earlier.

The provisional data, published on the National Packaging Waste Database gives an indication of how much packaging waste has been recycled or exported during the first quarter of the year, the three months between January and March 2017.

According to the data – packaging recycling rates are broadly in line with those recorded for the same period in the first quarter of 2016 – with all materials largely on track to meet their estimated demand for the year at present.

Progress towards targets will be confirmed once the total obligation for schemes is approved and published by the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) during mid-May.

The data suggests that overall a total of 955,180 tonnes of paper and cardboard was collected for recycling during the three month period – with 303,676 tonnes processed in the UK, and 651,504 tonnes exported for overseas reprocessing.

Data for the reprocessing and export of paper, plastic, glass, metal and wood packaging has been published

This is a slight drop when compared to the 1,007,000 million tonnes captured during the first quarter of 2016 – although the difference could narrow when final tonnage data is submitted next month.

Glass processing looks to have increased in comparison to 2016, with a total of 282,525 tonnes captured for re-melt in 2017 Q1, and 108,043 tonnes processed as aggregate. With an overall total of around 390,000 tonnes of material processed, this represents an increase of close to 15,000 tonnes when compared to the same period in 2016.


Plastic reprocessing looks also to have risen despite reported pressure on the sector due to a renewed focus from China on the quality of material imported into the country at the start of the year.

According to the data, a total of 260,136 tonnes of plastic was processed during the first three months of 2017. Of this, 180,563 tonnes was exported for overseas reprocessing, with 79,573 tonnes of the material handled in the UK.

When compared to the 2016 Q1 data, both export and domestic reprocessing have increased, with export tonnages having risen by around 12,000 tonnes in 2017, as well as a small increase of around 1,000 tonnes processed domestically.

On metals, steel packaging processing has jumped by close to 17,000 tonnes with 112,637 tonnes collected for processing in Q1 2017 compared to 94,785 in Q1 2016. Some 21,256 tonnes of aluminium packaging was processed during 2017 Q1 compared to 22,602 tonnes of material processed in 2016 Q1.

Wood has seen an increase in packaging material reported for recycling of almost 12,000 tonnes in 2017 compared to the same three month period 12 months earlier, with 97,350 tonnes processed I the first quarter this year in comparison to 85,802 last.


Commenting on the data, Chris Taylor, commercial manager at Clarity Environmental said that overall the latest figures do not throw up any major surprises, and described packaging recycling performance as ‘stable’ in comparison to previous years.

Exports of plastic packaging waste have seen a strong start to 2017, the figures suggest, despite reports of volatility in the sector

He said: “Everything looks very steady, even in plastics where there has been volatility in markets.”

The data is expected to have little impact on packaging recovery note (PRN) prices which – apart from plastic, where there is particular concern over the future availability of export outlets – have remained relatively static in April compared to March rates.

Plastic PRNs, which are reported to have traded for close to £35 per tonne in March, are now being bought in excess of £40, traders say.

Robbie Staniforth, commercial manager at Ecosurety, also commented on the relatively strong performance in plastics. He said: “From our side these look like positive figures. We thought that because of the National Sword [Chinese customs initiative] there was going to be an issue – and while we are not gobsmacked, the figures are slightly contrary to what we thought might happen in Quarter 1 for plastics. We have found it interesting that it hasn’t proved to be a difficult quarter.”

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Source: Plastic