MPs criticise government after plastic waste recommendations rejected

Waste exports

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee has expressed “surprise and disappointment” after the government disagreed with key recommendations in its report on dealing with plastic waste.

The cross-party MPs’ parliamentary scrutiny body conducted an “extensive inquiry” beginning in July 2021. The headline recommendation of its report, “The price of plastic: ending the toll of plastic waste”, published in November 2022, called for a ban on the export of all plastic waste by the end of 2027.

The government-commissioned Independent Review of Net Zero has also made a similar recommendation.

The government’s response to the report disagreed with the recommended ban on the export of plastic waste, saying legitimate exports have a role in the management of UK waste.

The Committee said its recommendation to stop exporting plastic waste would encourage the development of a larger recycling industry in the UK, which would create jobs and boost the economy as well as being better for the environment.

The Committee’s report made recommendations across the whole plastic supply chain, including calling for tougher targets and a better focus on the reduction and reuse of plastics.

This included the government rejecting the recommendation to make more plastic packaging producers pay for the cost of waste disposal.

We acknowledge there are already some reforms in these areas – now we need to monitor their impact.

Under current proposals known as extended producer responsibility (EPR), businesses that produce less than 50 tonnes of plastic packaging will be exempt from charges. The Committee had recommended that this threshold should extend down to companies producing over 1 tonne of plastic packaging.

The government said this would place too much of a burden on small producers, despite the Committee recommending that this should not be put in place until 2030.

The Chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, Sir Robert Goodwill MP, said: “Plastic waste is one of the major environmental issues of our age – as a visit to many beaches or inland beauty spots will show. But what’s good for our environment could also have been good for the economy.

“Our recommendation to ban plastic waste exports by 2027 was partly aimed to help develop a multimillion-pound plastic waste recycling industry in the UK, supporting hundreds of jobs.

“We will be watching carefully to see if the government reaches its stated – but I’m afraid rather vague – ambition to eliminate what it calls ‘avoidable’ plastic waste by 2042 and make producers more responsible for the plastics they use.

“We acknowledge there are already some reforms in these areas – now we need to monitor their impact and see whether they properly tackle the problem of plastic waste.”

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