Help to stop local authorities exporting plastic waste to Asia

 In News

Many readers probably think they are helping reduce their carbon footprint by taking their plastic bottles to a council skip.

But the UK is the fifth largest exporter of plastic waste with more being sent to the Far East than we recycle domestically, said Midlands green energy expert Ron Fox.

Now that China has stopped importing plastic waste he said more was going to Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, Taiwan, India and Indonesia, regardless of whether these countries can process all the material.  Consequently, large quantities end up in the oceans and rivers. 

“Globally 330 million tonnes of plastic is produced annually and 90% of that is sent to landfill, incinerated or lost into the environment,” said Ron, of Noreus Ltd on the University of Keele Science Innovation Park (www.noreus.co.uk). 

“On present trends this could grow to 1.2 billion tonnes with the danger that by 2050 there would be more plastic in our oceans than fish.”

He added: “The problem is that plastics have a big advantage in keeping foods fresher while some alternatives to plastic packaging have a higher carbon footprint.

“So we must do more to ensure all plastic waste is either recycled or composted, as well as finding alternatives to those produced by fossil fuels.

Ron is supporting a campaign by The Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility (ECCR) www.eccr.org.uk , which has recently written to Michael Gove, Secretary of State for the Environment, and Philip Hammond, Chancellor of the Exchequer, to ask them to end the subsidy for sending plastic waste to Asia.  

The ECCR, which is a faith-based coalition working for human rights, economic justice and environmental sustainability, believes the UK system of subsidies transfers costs of plastic disposal on to producers and retailers and give Local Authorities incentives to export the UK’s plastic waste.

It thinks some councils may not know where waste ends up and want them to take responsibility for ensuring that the plastics are properly disposed of.

They are also asking readers to help by putting in a Freedom of Information request to their local authority, using the on-line website www.whatdotheyknow.com and ensuring that the words “plastic waste” are in the request so that ECCR can track the questions and responses. 

Readers should ask their District or Borough Council:

  1. Can they provide a list of the companies that handle any of the council’s plastic waste?  
  2. What percentage of plastic waste, and what tonnage, is being exported?
  3. Where is the council’s plastic waste exported, and where are those exports re-exported to?
  4. Has the council a strategy to recycle plastic waste in the UK instead of exporting?

When they have received a response, they suggest writing to their local paper and to local councilors expressing their concerns or contact ECCR at info@eccr.org.uk.

Ron concluded: “Sweeping our waste under someone else’s carpet across the globe is not the solution to our country’s plastic problem. We have to find better ways at source in the UK.”

For more details about green energy call Ron on 0845 474 6641 or 078171 26945 or go to www.noreus.co.uk

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