plastic waste dump

MPs call for ban on plastic waste exports by 2027

Image credit: DT

The UK should ban exports of all plastic waste from 2027 to reduce the country’s contribution to global plastic waste pollution, MPs on the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee have said.

The cross-party Committee wants a new strategy to use less plastic, re-use more of it and boost recycling.

An estimated 380 million tonnes of plastic are produced worldwide every year, but the enduring nature of plastic products - often designed for single use - has led to a major waste issue, particularly involving plastic packaging for consumer and industrial goods.

The UK exports around 60 per cent of the over 2.5 million tonnes of plastic packaging waste it creates. Turkey has become the main destination for this waste following China’s decision in 2018 to ban non-industrial plastic waste imports.

However, as with China, instead of the plastic waste being recycled, there are numerous reports of shipments emanating from the UK simply being dumped and burned in Turkey, causing “irreversible and shocking” environmental and human health impacts.

The Committee has therefore recommended restricting the amount of plastic that can be exported from the UK before banning exports completely.

It also wants the government to step up the enforcement of existing rules to prevent criminal gangs illegally exporting and dumping UK-produced waste. The report said waste crime had become a “low-risk, high-reward endeavour”.

The Committee wants wider, longer-term recommendations aimed at reducing the UK’s consumption of plastics, increasing domestic recycling capacity by boosting investment in the sector, and creating a more ‘circular economy’ to reduce how much waste the UK produces.

This includes an expedited rollout of the ‘Extended Producer Responsibility’, which will see producers of plastic packaging pay fees on the packaging products they put on the market. 

This should incentivise them to reduce the amount of packaging they produce and use more easily recyclable materials. The Committee also recommended that the scheme is applied to more producers – covering all businesses that put more than one tonne of packaging on the market – by 2030.

Sir Robert Goodwill MP, the Committee’s chair, said: “For far too long the UK has been reliant on exporting its waste overseas and making it someone else’s problem. 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.

“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. 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”.

Last week, a UK-wide study found that around 60 per cent of home-compostable plastics do not fully disintegrate in home compost bins and end up in the soil.

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