UK now exporting more waste to countries with highest levels of ocean plastic pollution

17th June 2018 | Recycling

The ban on plastic exports to China has seen the UK offloading its waste to nations with questionable records on marine pollution. In the four months since the ban came into force waste being exported to Malaysia more than trebled, making it the main destination for British plastics. Exports to Vietnam increased by 50 per cent, while the amount sent to Thailand shot up fifty-fold.

All three countries have the unfortunate distinction of being in the top 10 for quantity of plastic waste entering the ocean, with Vietnam, the highest-place of the three, in fourth place.

The ranking come from a report published in the journal Science in 2015, which provides the best estimated currently available of the quantity of inadequately disposed plastics ending up as marine debris. Plastic in the world’s oceans has emerged as a major environmental problem in recent months, with scientists and environmentalists highlighting its harmful effects on marine creatures.

Plastic Pollution

Though the UK government has been vocal in its support of measure to reduce plastic usage, much of the waste currently circulating in the world’s oceans is thought to originate in developing countries with less effective waste management infrastructure. The figures on UK waste exports were revealed in an investigation by Greenpeace, which also found that countries are now beginning to shut their doors to the sudden surge of British waste.

Along with Poland – another major plastic importer – the south-east Asian nations have all imposed limits on the amount of plastic waste they will import from abroad. In Poland, a series of fires at dumps led to the country placing new restrictions on the amount of foreign waste coming in.

Polish interior minister Joachim Brudzinski said the China ban had caused an “increase in illegal imports to Poland of materials that should not be in our country.”

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