Five ways to reduce your household waste – and stop it being shipped to poorer countries

22nd February 2021 | Recycling

The UK is the largest plastic waste producer in Europe and one of the biggest producers of plastic waste in the world, second only to the US. The UK produces 99kg of plastic waste per person per year. And it exports about two-thirds of this waste to poorer countries such as Malaysia, Pakistan and Vietnam.

Shipping unsorted plastic waste from the European Union to non-OECD countries was banned by the EU from January this year. But the UK continues to export plastic waste to developing countries as part of new post-Brexit regulations. Most of the plastic waste is sold to these countries as the UK currently does not have the means and capacity to process it at home. But these countries also lack the infrastructure and capacity to recycle imported waste. And waste that cannot be recycled often ends up dumped in landfill or waterways or even burned – releasing toxic fumes into the environment.

Household waste

Indeed, much of the waste sent to these countries is unsorted and dirty plastics which can hardly be recycled anyway. This trade of waste and the shifting of one country’s problem onto another simply cannot continue. Our behaviour as consumers is central to tackling this huge amount of plastic waste – along with the 26 million tonnes of general household wate produced yearly in the UK. We therefore all need to start taking responsible actions and be held accountable for the waste we generate. Of course, changing behaviour is not easy or straightforward.

In its latest report, the Climate Change Committee, which advises the UK Government on the path to achieving net-zero carbon, emphasises that change in consumer behaviour is one of the major ways to speed up decarbonisation. But this is not something that can simply be forced on people.

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