Your recycling may be going into landfill overseas instead of being recycled

James Marshall
July 26, 2018

Waste from the United Kingdom sent overseas to be recycled could be ending up in landfill instead due to inadequate checks, according to the government's spending watchdog.

Now large firms handling over 50 tonnes of packaging a year need to show they have recycled a certain amount of packaging.

Since 2002, the amount of waste sent overseas to countries including China, Turkey, Malaysia and Poland has increased sixfold - accounting for half of the packaging reported as recycled a year ago.

The National Audit Office (NAO) has found that the UK's official recycling rate could be overestimated because the current system assumes that all material which arrives at recycling plants is processed.

The UK's approach to calculating packaging recycling rates is "not sufficiently robust", said the report, which pointed to inadequacies with both The Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Environment Agency (EA).

"And it relies on exporting materials to other parts of the world without adequate checks to ensure this material is actually recycled, and without consideration of whether other countries will continue to accept it in the long term".

The UK's recycling system is open to fraud because the government is failing adequately to check what is being reprocessed or sent overseas, according to the spending watchdog.

The head of the NAO, Sir Amyas Morse, said: "If the United Kingdom wants to play its part in fully tackling the impacts of waste and pollution, a tighter grip on packaging recycling is needed".

Environment secretary Michael Gove
Environment secretary Michael Gove

The report highlighted the company's progress against existing targets and commitments.

In a statement, DEFRA said it was committed to reforming the system in place. Exporters rated as "high risk" were far less likely to receive a visit from the agency than those it judged low risk, a report from the NAO said.

Michael Gove, the Environment Secretary, is already on record saying the United Kingdom has got to stop exporting its dirt.

"Our progress is a result of the Salvage and Waste teams' efforts in managing the salvage, donation, organics, recycling and trash programs for United States headquarters, distribution centers, and Target stores", according to the report.

"It is time to put an end to collection schemes where producers are often seen to "buy compliance" and instead ensure producers take responsibility on behalf of their consumers and customers of what they produce, encouraging them to be part of the solution and not kept at not arm's length through remote central bodies or compliance schemes".

The report concluded there needs to be a revision of the country's national waste strategy.

They do this by paying for a credit note from a recycling firm, with the money going to improvements in the recycling system through increased collections and processing.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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