UK’s plastic waste may be dumped overseas instead of recycled
23rd July 2018 | Recycling
Millions of tons of waste plastic from British businesses and homes may be ending up in landfill sites across the world, the government’s spending watchdog has warned. Huge amounts of packaging waste is being sent overseas on the basis that it will be recycled and turned into new products. However, concerns have been raised that in reality much of it is being dumped in sites from Turkey to Malaysia.
Every year, British households throw 22m tons of waste into the bin. Recycling rates have stagnated at about 44% and the UK is unlikely to hit its target of 50% by 2020. Britain does not have the requisite infrastructure to recycle its own plastic waste, so it is sent abroad.
Packaging recycling obligations require more than 7,000 firms responsible for generating waste to demonstrate that a certain amount has been recycled. But a report by the National Audit Office (NAO) criticises the Environment Agency’s oversight of the scheme in England.
It also said Michael Gove’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs had not done enough to assess the wide effectiveness of the system and “has not been sufficiently proactive” in managing the risks associated with the rise in exports of waste. Under the scheme, firms with recycling obligations contributed £73m in 2017 to the cost of dealing with their waste by paying for “recovery evidence notes” from reprocessing plants or exporters.
Since 2002, the amount of waste sent overseas to countries including China, Turkey, Malaysia and Poland has increased sixfold – accounting for half of the packaging reported as recycled last year. But the NAO said, “We are concerned that the agency does not have strong enough controls to prevent they system subsidising exports of contaminated or poor-quality material.”
There was a risk that some material was not recycled to UK standards “and is instead sent to landfill or contributes to pollution.”
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