UK nowhere near ready to recycle its own plastic

30th January 2018 | Recycling

The UK is presently “nowhere near ready” to create the number of recycling plants required should the Government decide that all plastic waste must now be recycled on home soil, says compliance specialist Ecosurely.

It says the country will therefore need to continue to export its plastic waste overseas and/ or incinerate it in the near to mid future, while recycling capacity and the market for plastics is built up in the UK.

The Government also needs to urgently assess the current PRN system (Packaging Recovery Note System), which enables exporters to gain up to 50% more PRNs for exporting mixed waste, placing UK reprocessors at a a business-critical disadvantage. The comments by Ecosurely’s managing director, James Piper come after an investigation by Sky News on Friday 26 January, which looked into the impact of exported British-collected plastics on countries such as China and Thailand.


The UK sends 494,000 tonnes of plastic to China for recycling. Announced in July, the Chinese Government adopted restrictions on 24 grades of solid waste on 1 January this year, with the restrictions set to fully enter into force on 1 March 2018.

A total ban has been placed on unsorted mixed papers and post-consumer plastic, while a range of other materials must not exceed a contamination level of 0.5% in order to be allowed into the country.

James comments: “There is simply no way our country will be able to conjure up the number of plants needed to deal with this waste build up, now that China has refused to take our contaminated waste. While we applaud that this issue is being debated at the highest levels, the hard fact is that the Government will need to inject financial and market incentives for those companies which want to invest in plastic reprocessing infrastructure, so that UK reprocessors are on a level playing field with exporters.

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