China, India – who’s next to ban plastic waste imports from the UK?

Following the recent news that India will follow China and tighten its laws around importing plastic waste, Stephen Cameron, business development manager at SWRnewstar, asks “who’s next to ban plastic waste imports from the UK?” It’s been just over a year since the UK’s recycling industry was hit with the news that China was placing restrictions on the recyclable materials it would accept into the country. Now, India has announced that it too wants to tighten its laws around the plastic waste being imported for recycling. Globally, plastic waste remains a serious challenge but as a result of two of the world’s largest countries placing strict restrictions on exporters, and in such close concession, the UK faces intensified pressure to find different outlets outside of both China and India – and fast. Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Turkey are all in the mix but are swiftly closing their boarders as sustainable long-term possibilities. To compound this even further, whilst China’s doors are still open for top quality cardboard fibre, and they are still prepared to pay premium rate for that quality, the compliance tests and inspections needed on materials are extremely tough. Additionally, the licences issued to exporters is 40% down from what they were previously, which is huge. Not only are they demanding higher quality, they are accepting less volume. Domestically, whilst costs remain a concern, the pressing issue for businesses is not knowing how or where they can move their cardboard, plastic and other materials. Our only viable option is to build more infrastructure to be able to cope with the level of compliance being placed on the recyclable material that is being exported. Also, to be able to proactively reduce the amount being generated. It’s a two-stage approach that is needed by businesses themselves. Firstly, they need to literally lift the lid on their bins and the waste they are producing to identify avoidable waste and secondly, change the behaviour and the mindset around correctly segregating unavoidable waste. But can businesses afford to do this themselves? Identifying a waste management partner that has already established network of trusted partners and local providers can quickly help companies re-evaluate their waste management strategies and introduce more flexible circular models. It will only be when businesses can successfully tackle their waste management processes and we can fill the infrastructure gap that the UK will have a realistic chance of limiting the material being sent aboard. China and India, are among the first but it’s only a matter of time until other countries announce similar recycling restrictions. If they haven’t already started, the time for UK businesses to take action is now.  
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