Recycling

May Mean More Going to Landfill

A number of British MPs have signed an Early Day Motion (EDM) in Parliament calling for a ban on exports of plastics for recycling. But The UK based Recycling Association has warned that banning exports will only mean more plastic sent to landfill in the UK, while depriving developing countries of a useful resource. The EDM has been signed by 35 MPs, and while it will have no influence on the law and might not even be debated in Parliament, it could help to influence the Government in its legislative direction.

The Recycling Association Chief Executive Simon Ellin said, “This is very worrying. Most of our plastic exports take place in a compliant manner. If we were to ban the legitimate trade in recycled plastics, then it will decimate our industry, prices will crash and material will end up in landfill. 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 decide 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.

“The major problem in many developing countries is their own poor waste management infrastructure, and not plastics imported for recycling. We should be helping them develop their own collection infrastructure rather than cutting off the supply of material to their developing manufacturing industries. We should definitely look to invest in our own plastic reprocessing infrastructure in the UK, but exports should have their place too as part of a global economy.

“To stimulate UK infrastructure we need more measures than just a 30% minimum recycled content level as proposed in the Resources & 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 system may well collapse. That will make it very hard to develop UK infrastructure.

“We also need to ensure that the Environment Agency and devolved agencies put their attention on those criminals operating at the periphery of the law.”