Plastic exports ban “could lead to UK recycling collapse”

11th February 2019 | Recycling

Banning plastic exports would result in more landfilling and could cause UK plastic recycling infrastructure to collapse, the Recycling Association (RA) has warned. RA chief executive Simon Ellin was responding to an early day motion (EDM) in Parliament calling for a plastics export ban, as called for by the campaign group a Plastic Planet.

Ellin said banning “legitimate” trade in recycled plastics would “decimate” the industry causing prices to crash and material landfilled and was “very worrying”. So far 35 MPs, including the Green Party’s Caroline Lucas, have signed the EDM but it’s not known if, and when, it will be debated in Parliament. Though the EDM has no legal standing, the RA is concerned it may influence the Government’s legislative direction.


Instead, Ellin argued the Environment Agency and devolved agencies need to focus resources on catching the criminals consistently exporting illegally while companies exporting legitimately should have a “lighter touch focus”. Ellin argued, “We should definitely look to invest in our own plastic reprocessing infrastructure in the UK, but exports should have the place too as part of a global economy. To stimulate UK infrastructure we need more measure than just a 30% minimum recycled content level as proposed in the resources and waste strategy, but also need to look at energy prices, the taxation system, the planning system and demand for material.

“By banning exports, there will be no incentive to collect these materials on the whole, and the whole system will collapse. That will make it very hard to develop UK infrastructure.” He added that the UK should assist developing countries in creating better collection infrastructure, which is the “major problem” contributing to the plastics pollution problem, rather than cutting off material supply to their manufacturing industries.

Ellin added, “A number of Asian countries have already banned plastic imports, while some have placed tougher restrictions on plastic imports. It is up to them to decided what they will accept, and up to us to meet their requirements to help them develop successful recycling industries. Often these plastics, once recycled, are sent to manufacturing centres to be turned into new products. This is the circular economy in action.”

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