The Timber Packaging & Pallet Confederation (TIMCON) has welcomed Defra’s consultation on the UK extended producer responsibility (EPR) system for packaging.
Defra is the UK’s Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs. TIMCON, which represents the wooden packaging and pallet industry in the UK and Ireland, says the process will help the industry and help stimulate greater reuse of packaging materials.
Stuart Hex, general secretary of TIMCON, said the packaging and pallet industry was delighted Defra has reviewed and is proposing to revise the current recycling targets.
“Manufacturing and using wooden pallets are a textbook example of the circular economy in action. Our products are sustainable, energy efficient, repairable, recyclable and reusable,” he said. “A pallet’s lifecycle can be up to – and even beyond 25 years, during which time it continues to store carbon until it has reached the end of its life.
“During the EPR consultation, we have advocated a greater focus on reuse and repair, rather than recycling – which should be carried out only at the end of a product’s useful life. Defra’s targets will help increase this focus, while TIMCON will continue to promote and educate its members and the supply chain about product reuse.”
However, Hex added that the industry had lobbied for targets that reflect European Union circular economy figures, which were recently revised down to 25% in 2025. “While we welcome the review process, we strongly believe the UK targets should be in line with EU targets,” he said.
TIMCON commissions an annual independent market report entitled The UK Wood Pallet & Packaging Market, which it jointly funds with the Forestry Commission. In 2017, survey respondents repaired an estimated total of 29.4 million pallets, compared with 27.2 million pallets in 2016. This is an increase of 8.1% on the previous year and follows an increase of 4.6% in 2016.
“The growth in the number of pallets repaired suggest that users are increasing their focus on keeping pallets in use by repairing rather than replacing them with new ones,” said Hex. “It confirms that the industry and pallet users are looking to extend the lifecycle of their pallets before they are recycled into other products such as chips for the board industry, animal bedding and as a last resort, biomass. We expect a further increase in the 2018 survey.
“A change in UK recycling targets will relieve some of the pressure the industry has faced as the result of the recent exponential increase in the price of wood PRNs,” Hex continued. A Packaging Recovery Note (PRN) is a type of document that provides evidence that waste packaging material has been recycled into a new product. Packaging Recovery Notes can be issued by accredited reprocessors when they have recovered and recycled packaging material.
“The high price of PRNs has placed an unsustainable strain on our industry and threatens the very existence of the SMEs that are vital to our economy. We fear that some smaller companies will be unable to afford PRNs at the current prices. We want to see a level playing field that also takes into account the sustainability of our products.
“More than 90% of all pallets are made from wood, but the cost pressures that are passed on to customers will mean inevitably they will look at other unsustainable and environmentally unfriendly materials for their packaging requirements. This, of course, would completely undermine any agreed environmental targets.”