UK – A cross-party UK committee is calling on the UK government to ban plastic waste exports entirely by the end of 2027 to reduce the country’s contribution to global plastic waste pollution.
The call comes as part of a recent report by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee on the country’s plastic waste failures and how the government and industry can tackle them.
The report makes a number of recommendations, including expediting the rollout of the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), creating a task force to investigate reuse and refill schemes, encouraging the use of the waste hierarchy concept, and spending money raised by EPR on building recycling infrastructure.
Banning plastic waste exports by end of 2027 is one of the committee’s top priorities – something it says would end landfilling and incineration in countries like Turkey, where most of the UK’s waste ends up.
“For far too long, the UK has been reliant on exporting its waste overseas and making it someone else’s problem,” says MP Sir Robert Goodwill, chair of the committee.
“Plastic waste originating in our country is being illegally dumped and burned abroad. The UK must not be a part of this dirty trade, and that’s why we are calling for a total ban on waste plastic exports.”
Many industry players still assert exporting waste is a good option for market prices and the environment.
“To do this, we need to reduce how much plastic we use and consume, invest in greater capacity to reprocess our own waste and support research into new technologies and materials,” added Goodwill.
“If the UK takes a lead in this, we have the potential to create hundreds of new jobs and build a multi-billion pound waste management industry.”
The ban should also be part of a strategy to use less plastic, re-use more of it, and boost recycling, the committee said in a report.
The call comes as recent estimates suggest that the UK exports around 60% of the over 2.5 million tonnes of plastic packaging waste it creates, with 38% going to Turkey.
Despite legal stipulations restricting the types of waste and exportation destinations, the report says fraudsters use legal routes to conceal illegal shipments.
This costs UK taxpayers an estimated £1 billion (US$1.15 billion) annually. Turkey is the main destination for this waste.
Illegal waste trafficking also has severe impacts on human and environmental health. It is estimated that every 30 seconds, one person dies from diseases caused by mismanaged waste.
It can also cause a variety of economic, social and health impacts, including land and water degradation, air pollution and food chain contamination.
In the first step towards a more circular economy for plastics, the committee recommends restricting the amount of plastic that can be exported from the UK, then banning exports completely.
The committee also wants the government to step up the enforcement of existing rules to prevent criminal gangs from illegally exporting and dumping UK-produced waste.
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