The EC Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulations were introduced in 1997 to prevent the production of packaging waste and reduce the amount of waste for final disposal through packaging re-use, recycling and other forms of recovery. Until recently, the UK was considered "the dustbin of Europe", sending more waste to landfill than any other European country. However in 2009, over 70% of waste was directed from landfill, demonstrating the success of the UK's efforts, which includes the PRN system.
To achieve compliance with the EU legislation, the UK introduced the PRN system. The PRN system has two main functions: to incentivise recycling and to make producers responsible for the cost of recycling their packaging waste.
PRN stands for Packaging Recovery Note. Reprocessors and exporters of packaging waste who choose to become accredited with the relevant Environment Agency can generate one PRN for every tonne of material treated. This PRN is then sold and the income is used to improve efficiency of their operations, acting as an incentive to recycling. Producers of packaging waste are obligated to purchase a number of PRNs every year based on the type of their business and the amount of packaging waste they handle.
For more information about how/whether the regulations affect you, you should visit the Environment Agency website, or call the relevant Producer Responsibility Unit, details below:
EA, Producer Responsibility Unit 02070 914 035
SEPA, Producer Responsibility Unit 01786 457 700
NIEA, Producer Responsibility Unit 02890 543 037