MPs call for ban on all plastic waste exports 


The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee has called for a ban on exporting all plastic waste from the UK by 2027 to reduce the country’s contribution to global plastic waste pollution.

The ban should be part of a strategy to use less plastic, reuse more of it and boost recycling, the committee said in the report – the price of plastic: ending the toll of plastic waste.

The UK exports around 60% of the over 2.5 million tonnes of plastic packaging waste it creates, the Committee says; Turkey is the main destination for this waste. The committee continues that it heard “alarming accounts” of British plastic waste being dumped and burned in Turkey, causing “irreversible and shocking” environmental and human health impacts.

The committee says, in light of these accounts, and the “pervasive problem” of plastic pollution contaminating the environment, it made several recommendations.

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 and then banning exports completely.

Amongst the recommendations are reforming government targets to ensure greater adherence to the waste hierarchy, expediting the rollout of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) and using “some of the income” raised by the EPR and Plastic Packaging Tax schemes to invest in recycling infrastructure and support research on how to tackle hard to recycle plastics, such as plastic films. 

For far too long the UK has been reliant on exporting its waste overseas and making it someone else’s problem.

The Chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, Sir Robert Goodwill MP, 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”.

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. The report said waste crime had become a “low-risk, high-reward endeavour”. 

The committee says it also made 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.

It contends that these are essential steps if the ban on exporting plastic waste is to be deliverable.

CIWM does not support the MP’s call for a total ban on all exports of UK plastic waste by the end of 2027.

Commenting on the report, CIWM Policy and External Affairs Director, Lee Marshall, said: “CIWM broadly welcomes the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee report and it is good to see the committee taking on board several points that CIWM made in response to their enquiry.

“However, CIWM does not support the MP’s call for a total ban on all exports of UK plastic waste by the end of 2027. Whilst we naturally advocate plastic waste being reprocessed in the UK wherever possible, export has an important role to play in the development of a global circular economy.

Marshall says that international markets remain vital for the recycling of sorted, clean, and graded materials provided they are exported in accordance with all relevant legislation.

The CIWM response calls for a tightening of regulations to ensure that material is only exported to “fully compliant and legitimate” recyclers who maintain the appropriate standards. Whilst there may be a case to consider a possible ban on exports to all non-OECD countries, Marshall argues that this could impact legitimate operations in countries such as Malaysia

“It is important to recognise that the issue with increased recycling in the UK is not solely the initial investment in reprocessing infrastructure. The ongoing operating costs, particularly in relation to labour and energy, also act as a barrier to a long-term viable reprocessing industry capable of processing all the country’s waste plastic.”

Send this to a friend