Packaging Recovery Notes

Packaging Recovery Notes

A Packaging Recovery Note (PRN) provides evidence that waste packaging material has been recycled into a new product. They form a key part of the Producer Responsibility Obligations Regulations 2007 which covers Great Britain.

What are PRNs?

PRNs are the evidence required by producers of packaging waste to comply with the Producer Responsibility (Packaging Waste) Regulations 2005 in the UK. PRNs are issued by accredited reprocessors and act as an incentive to recycle. They are a way for businesses to offset the amount of packaging that they place into the UK market. Packaging producers and handlers are obligated to purchase a number of PRNs every year based on the type and amount of packaging they handle. This is referred to as the businesses PRN obligation.

In order to comply, a business must calculate their PRN obligation (packaging obligation) for the current compliance year in each specific material. There are six materials for which a business might have an obligation, plastic, paper, glass, aluminium, steel and wood. PRNs are material specific and businesses need only purchase PRNs to cover material that they have performed activity on.

The PRN market is an open market allowing PRNs to be traded between accredited reprocessors and obligated companies. Trading of PRN’s for the current compliance year can take place between 1st December the previous year and 31st January the following year, allowing registered companies to both buy and sell PRNS during this period. As with any open market the cost of compliance will vary throughout the year driven by the fluctuating price of PRNs.

Who is obligated to buy PRNs?

A company or group of companies become obligated when they met both of the following criteria in the previous calendar year:
1. Handled over 50 tonnes of packaging and supplied to UK markets.
2. Had a turnover in excess of £2 million in their last audited accounts.

Companies meeting both of these thresholds in the previous calendar year must register with their relevant UK authority (EA, SEPA, NIEA) and provide relevant packaging data.

Who is responsible and for how much?

The proportion of costs of recycling to which an obligated company is responsible (how many PRNs they need to buy) is determined by the activity they have carried out on that material. There are four main activities in the packaging chain, each of which takes responsibility for a percentage of the packaging totalling 100% responsibility.





PRN Prices

This table summarises the price of PRNs in 2018.















PRN Prices

The PRN market is based on supply and demand, with prices fluctuating depending on whether the market is short or in surplus when compared to against annual targets. There are many factors that feed into this such as the targets themselves, recycling performance against those targets and world socio-economic events.

Info from

The Environment Agency monitors businesses to ensure that:

• Packaging producers in England contribute to EU Packaging Directive recovery and recycling targets
• All obligated producers register
• Producer compliance schemes fulfil their statutory duties on behalf of producer members
• They provide accurate data on the packaging that’s handled, recovered and recycled in the UK
• There’s accurate data on registered producers
• Treatment, recovery and export operators comply with accreditation conditions
• Waste packaging is recycled and recovered to directive standards
• Waste packaging is not directed through illegal routes

Compliance activities include:

• Site inspections
• Desk-based assessments and reviews
• Validation checks on data submissions
• Data trend analysis, looking for errors and anomalies

Packaging charge income funds the majority of our compliance work with:

• Producers
• Producer compliance schemes
• Accredited reprocessors
• Accredited exporters


The Environment Agency will continue to identify packaging producers who are not compliant, “free-riders”, and will investigate.

Increasing government recycling targets are likely to continue to place upward pressure on PRN prices. The table shows UK government recycling targets in percentages:

Packaging recycling and recovery targets 2018 to 2020 are currently being reviewed and we will update as and when we are made aware of developments.

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