Packaging Recovery Notes


Under the Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging Waste) Regulations 1997, an obligated company is a company (or group of companies) which performs an 'activity' and meets both of the following thresholds:

  • In the previous calendar year, handled over 50 tonnes of packaging around products that it supplied (and/or consumed if imported); and
  • in the most recent audited accounts, exceeded a £2m turnover.

The aims of the regulations are to ensure that producers of packaging and packaging materials reduce the amount of packaging waste produced and to achieve a more sustainable approach to dealing with packaging waste.
All obligated companies are required to register with either:

  • The Environment Agency/Scottish Environmental Protection Agency/ Environment & Heritage Service (Northern Ireland); or
  • a registered Compliance Scheme.

A compliance scheme takes on your legal obligation in meeting your recycling and recovery obligation. However, you are legally responsible for providing the scheme with your data.

What is Obligated Packaging?

Logically, it is anything that is used in the transportation, handling or protection of products. Six types of material are covered - paper, plastic, steel, aluminium, glass and wood. There is also a category of 'other' that includes things such as hessian bags, rope, jute and ceramics. Most packaging is obvious - bags, boxes, bottles (not forgetting the tops!), cans etc. Pallets and pallet wrap are also considered to be packaging as well. However, there are some exceptions allowed and some fairly grey areas.


The 'SHARED RESPONSIBILITY' approach has been adopted to ensure that all companies who handle the packaging prior to its becoming waste take a proportion of the responsibility for its potential environmental impact.

There are four 'ACTIVITIES' in the packaging chain, each of which takes responsibility for a percentage of the packaging:

Activity Responsibility
Raw Material Manufacturer of packaging raw material 6%
Convertor Turns the raw material into Packaging 9%
Packer / Filler Places goods into packaging 37%
Seller Supplies packaging on to the final user or consumer 48%

Together, these apply 100% responsibility to all packaging. A company has to perform at least one of these functions on packaging to be obligated. There are also importing and exporting obligations and therefore it may be advisable to seek further assistance if you handle packaging at all.

Packaging Waste Regulations Process

  • Do you meet the thresholds of 50 tonnes of packaging handled per year (in the previous calendar Year) and £2 million turnover?
  • If yes, you have to register with the regulator or a Compliance Scheme with your packaging handled data, which should be 'as accurate as reasonably possible' - you will need to justify any assumptions or extrapolations.
  • From your data you can calculate the Targets you will need to meet in that year.
  • Meeting the targets means obtaining PRNs (Packaging Recovery Notes).
  • If you register with a compliance scheme the obligation to obtain PRNs passes to the scheme. If you register direct with the regulator you will be required to purchase PRNs and submit a Certificate of Compliance before 31st January.
  • You should keep all records for at least four years.
  • The appropriate Agency aims to visit each producer once every three years.

Proof of Recovery - PRNS

To provide a recognisable, auditable trail of evidence of recovery the Environment Agency has developed a system of Packaging Recovery Notes (PRNs). These notes are issued by the reprocessor (the steel mill, glass smelter or waste to energy plant) and they can issue a PRN for every tonne of packaging waste they reprocess.

Obligated companies, or compliance schemes on their behalf, must obtain sufficient PRNs to meet their targets. These PRNs are traded and so have a market value - the cost of obtaining them is passed on by compliance schemes to their members. Packaging waste exported for recovery can be used to produce Packaging Waste Export Recovery Notes (PERNs). These have the same status as PRNs.

Weighbridge tickets from waste contractors showing a company has had waste collected for recycling are not accepted as evidence.

PRNs are issued relating specifically to the material that has been recycled - paper, glass, aluminium, steel, plastic and wood. Recovery processes like energy-from-waste are not material specific.

If you are currently recycling some of your waste, you will not be able to deduct this from your obligation. You would have to investigate whether this material has a value and if there is the possibility of obtaining PRNs. Remember PRNs can only be issued for the recovery of Packaging Waste.