China is considering measures that mirror a ban on plastic waste from the EU recently announced by Malaysia.
Moves which could mark the end of the large-scale importation of plastic waste from the UK and further jeopardise the chance of the UK meeting new Government recycling targets – according to PAFA (Packaging and Films Association).
“The new recycling targets, already heavily criticised as unrealistic due to the lack of adequate collection and recycling infrastructure, will fail even sooner than expected if these new developments in the Far East come about,” says Barry Turner, PAFA CEO.
PAFA refers to an announcement made by China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection, Ministry of Commerce and National Development and Reform Commission, stating that it will consider strictly enforcing regulations that prohibit the import of unwashed, post-consumer plastics as well as banning the transfer of imported waste to a company other than that allowed by the import licence.
It also will not allow companies to sell unwashed leftover plastic from sorting of imported plastic and paper.
“This will require a significant investment in Europe to fill the size of the hole created which will require time to develop” said Turner, “but such moves would have a huge impact on the waste industry in the UK, especially when it comes to meeting plastic recycling targets set by DEFRA.
“With much of the 67 per cent of Britain’s plastic waste being exported to the Far East, particularly China, according to DEFRA statistics, and the UK already desperately short of plastic collection and recycling facilities, I believe reaching the target of 57 per cent by 2017 will be even more unrealistic and out of touch” continued Turner.
PAFA argues that the change of attitude to reprocessing Europe’s waste in the Far East makes it imperative that DEFRA urgently rethinks the burden placed on industry in its latest recycling targets.
Turner said: “Last year, DEFRA was advised against this unachievable level of targets by its own advisory committee and now we are witnessing previously unforeseen moves in the Far East which will make them even more unattainable.
“There is no joined-up thinking on waste and recycling targets and it is clear that the burden of cost and responsibility is being forced on UK manufacturers and retailers at a time they can least afford it,” concluded Barry Turner.