Tom Giddings Alupro Executive Director interview




Circular Online speaks to the Executive Director of Alupro (The Aluminium Packaging Recycling Organisation) Tom Giddings.

What are the biggest packaging recovery note (PRN) pricing trends to expect in 2023?

Alupro Recycling Rates

It’s very difficult with this subject because even if I had a crystal ball it would probably be muggy. Well, fundamentally PRN pricing should reflect the availability of evidence from recycling.

We’re seeing strong market growth, which is great, and year on year it has been quite strong, but that has historically been matched by the recyclers.

Alupro’s members represent the major recyclers of aluminium and they’re not planning any outages or rundowns of stock or anything like that. So actually, we’re not expecting to see any big planned factors which would affect the availability of evidence and PRNs.

But as we know, there are quite a few factors in play with such a complex system. Between the producers, compliance schemes and the exporters and recyclers who provide the evidence, there are quite a lot of opportunities there for commercial arrangements.

We’re not expecting to see any big planned factors which would affect the availability of evidence and PRNs.

In fact, one of the things that we were hoping for last year when the government released their consultation on PRN reform was perhaps we’d see some of the bold measures that were laid out in there being adopted by Defra (Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs) so that they could reduce system volatility.

But more regular reporting and a standardised, generalised rate for PRNs taken in anonymously are quite strong measures but it remains to be seen whether they’ll be enough to help with that until 2027.

How do you see EPR impacting the industry and recovered aluminium as a material?


I think it’s very hard at the moment to give a definitive answer on EPR (extended producer responsibility) because so much is yet to be determined in terms of the structure of the system; who is going to be paid for what and is there going to be any in-built mechanism to improve recycling performance?

But I suppose it’s worth saying right at the top, you can’t look at EPR without looking at the DRS. For aluminium in particular, it’s quite an acute issue. When a UK DRS comes in, it’s going to strip out most of the aluminium packaging that’s in the market.

When you take the cans out of the market it’s going to change the composition of what’s remaining in people’s curb side bins, assuming they partake in the DRS. So we need to think about that as well as the simple accounting switch where producers of products using packaging are responsible for funding the collection, sorting and logistics of recycling the packaging they use.

When a UK DRS comes in, it’s going to strip out most of the aluminium packaging that’s in the market.

So I think it could be positive if the EPR system works in a way that reinvests EPR revenue into things that increase recycling rates, such as paying for performance at local authorities, not just paying the bill, paying by performance. 

It’s going to be important to make sure that targets are hit for quality as well as for quantity to make sure that we get enough clean quality material through.

One of the key problems of the PRN system is that it’s often been accused of not reinvesting in the infrastructure to actually accomplish targets. When it comes to the EPR system, it absolutely must do that. Otherwise, it’s going to be seen as a very expensive substitute which doesn’t accomplish anything.

EPR should be looking at consumer engagement as well. If we want to hit the packaging recovery target overall across all materials, you’ve got other materials that need to be doing what metal has been doing for ages because nobody else is doing anything like that.

EPR should be looking at consumer engagement as well.

Plastics in particular, in our view, need looking at just to make sure that people know what they’re doing. People are confused by packaging. Let’s demystify that.

Aluminium packaging is, by and large, very simple and uncomplicated to recycle for consumers and industry; it’s one of its key strengths. We also want to make sure that people know why they’re recycling, what they need to be doing and what the best practices and standards are.

Is the waste hierarchy still fit for purpose?


So I think my colleagues at Metal Packaging Manufacturers Association and Metal Packaging Europe have said this quite well, but there needs to be a recognition within the waste hierarchy that reuse is not always better than recycling. 

Sometimes if you do the life cycle assessment (LCA) on this, actually a refill model is more resource intensive and we shouldn’t be making it all about carbon.

There are other impacts that are actually more resource intensive than single-use. But within the system, as it stands today, you’ve got recycling just as a band, then you’ve got incineration beneath it and you’ve got reuse above it, right?

waste hierarchyAnd within recycling, there’s such a variation in terms of characteristics. I’ve touched on this around the permanent availability of metals.

That’s the term that’s being used more frequently these days, putting a piece of aluminium through the loop 10s of times and seeing minimal losses is a lot different to putting through a piece of plastic.

Is it fit for purpose? I think it does need relooking at because I think it might be too simplistic. Ultimately, I think we’ve almost moved beyond the waste hierarchy as a guiding light now.

And actually we are much more comfortable talking in numbers. And you know, tonnes of carbon per tonne of product or, you know, per unit intensity, measures of water use or whatever it is. But whatever the measure at the moment is, carbon is the vogue, but it won’t remain in carbon. Once we’ve cracked that it would be something else.

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