Reforming the PRN system to directly provide funding to local authorities would incentivise packaging recycling, according to the Local Government Association (LGA).
In its submission to an inquiry by the Commons’ Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee into waste management in England, the LGA claims councils have “radically” increased recycling in recent years and should receive a better share of “recycling value”.
The LGA estimates up to “£1billion of additional value” could be available by 2020 if councils were able to “obtain a better share of the recycling value at the same time as reducing contamination”.
The association estimates that, at present, councils obtain around 28% of the total financial value of the material they collect. But it reasons this sum should be increased to around 40% to “reflect the pivotal role” played by authorities and residents in boosting recycling rates.
In order to increase the value of recycling, the LGA agreed material quality needed boosting and said this would be helped by more investment in infrastructure, which could be partly achieved by councils receiving funds from commercial landfill tax receipts.
The MRF Code of Practice would also help boost value, the LGA said, but government must additionally “close the loopholes that encourage the export of low grade recycling” – a practice it claims is incentivised by the current PRN (Packaging Waste Recovery Note) system, which needs reforming.
The LGA’s response states: “Reforming the system to recognise the role of local authorities in meeting packaging targets would provide a direct incentive to local authorities to collect more packaging material and make an additional contribution towards meeting our EU recycling targets in 2020.”
Reuse of products was emphasised by the Association in its response. It said there is “significant potential” to increase the proportion of household waste that is reused and that boosting reuse – through the likes of take-back schemes, landfill bans and consumer incentives – could bring up to £435million of additional value to taxpayers, businesses, charities and consumers.
Other measures called for by the LGA include scaling up the debt finance available through the Green Investment Bank; Treasury incentives for purchasing second-hand products; and the maintaining of council powers to fine residents that “continually and wilfully fail to recycle and contaminate recycling”.
The submission also tackled the issue of fines for residents who fail to recycle although the government is keen for a softer approach on punitive measures. According to the LGA, the government’s Deregulation Bill would remove council powers to fine residents that continually fail to recycle and contaminate recycling and this will hamper efforts to meet 2020 recycling targets. Its response therefore calls for these powers to be maintained.