Processors of packaging waste in the U.K. are calling for major reforms to the current packaging recovery note (PRN) system, which they contend encourages exports of scrap material.

At a recycling seminar hosted by the British Plastics Federation (BPF), several industry members voiced their support for changes to the system first introduced in 1997. While the original intent of the PRN system was to support domestic recycling of packaging waste by requiring producers of waste to be responsible for its recycling, the 16-year-old PRN system overwhelmingly favors exporters of the material, several presenters argued.

Calling for “immediate and wholesale” reforms, Regain Polymers purchasing director Bernard Chase said the current system allows exporters to count the full value of tonnage sent overseas as recovered whereas domestic recyclers are credited with PRNs in relation to the overall material processed. Chase said those differences mean domestic recyclers are being held to an unfair standard. He added that the setup has also led to stagnating domestic recycling rates.

To improve the system, Chase argued adjusting recycling targets to support domestic recycling. Similar adjustments have been made in the glass sector and they were a success, Chase told the crowd. “If we have done it for glass, why can’t we do it for plastics? Let’s have a global target split between mechanically recycled and that which is traded abroad and use that to level the playing field for the U.K. recycler.”

Improving domestic recycling has gained urgency in recent months due to China’s Operation Green Fence, which has cut into U.K. exports of a wide range of materials, including plastics.