The UK’s success at recycling may be being boosted by fraudulent exports of unrecyclable materials, auditors have claimed.
According to the National Audit Office (NAO), the current system is opaque, poorly monitored and could be subject to fraud and non-compliance. It found businesses paid only £73m towards the cost of recycling their packaging in 2017, compared with the £700m spent by local authorities.
Twenty years on from the introduction of the current system to ensure businesses recycle, the report, the report found recycling waste was exported without checks to ensure it would be recycled.
The report says: ‘The system appears to have evolved into a comfortable way for government to meet targets without facing up to the underlying recycling issues.
‘The government has no evidence that the system has encouraged companies to minimise packaging or make it easy to recycle.’
Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, Mary Creagh, said: ‘Today’s NAO report shows the Packaging Recycling Note (PRN) system has become a tick-box exercise. Waste is exported with no guarantee that it will be recycled, producers are not made to pay to recycle their packaging, and the system is open to fraud and error.
Local Government Association environment spokesperson, Cllr Judith Blake, said the report highlighted the problems faced by councils.
‘The best hope we have of reducing the amount of waste heading to landfill is to stop it from entering the environment in the first place – this would make a huge difference to our ability to recycle more efficiently.’
She renewed calls for the packaging industry to ‘get around the table’ to cut unrecyclable material’.