The Government fears millions of pounds paid by manufacturing companies to comply with EC packaging waste regulations is not being used for waste disposal and recycling.
Companies are required to buy packaging recovery notes (PRNs) for every tonne of waste they recycle. The PRNs are used to show compliance with regulations
Notes have an effective price of about £30 per tonne of waste, and are bought either through agents who arrange waste recovery and recycling, or directly from waste processors.
But at least three government departments are aware that companies have obtained PRNs without providing waste for processing.
‘A lot of people worry that all this money is just being tucked into the back pocket,’ an industry source said.
The Office of Fair Trading is concerned that a market in PRNs has emerged, instead of a focus on extra processing for packaging waste paper, glass and metals.
Although investigations into PRNs have just begun, Government sources have raised doubts that energy-from-waste incinerators and recyclers will be able to cope with packaging waste.
The Government is reviewing investment in waste disposal and recycling capacity.
For the past four months, companies with more than £5m turnover producing more than 50 tonnes of packaging waste a year have been required to recycle 38% of waste.
The demands will be widened from the year 2000 to include another 6,000 firms with turnover exceeding £1m. From 2001, the requirement will rise to 52% packaging waste recovery or recycling.