MPs call for end to export of UK plastic waste for recycling

A seal that had got a lost frisbee stuck around its neck is one of the cases the RSPCA had highlighted to warn about plastic waste

A group of cross-party MPs has today called for a complete ban on the export of the UK’s plastic waste to developing countries.

Figures show that two thirds of plastic waste separated for recycling in the UK is shipped overseas for processing.

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Scottish MPs are among nearly 40 to have backed a ban in an Early Day Motion being presented in the Commons.

The motion, which calls for a debate on the subject, was proposed by Liberal Democrat MP for Carshalton and Wallington Tom Brake.

A total of 11 Scottish LibDem and SNP MPs have signed.

They have condemned the practice of passing UK rubbish onto the world’s poorest people to deal with.

UK households bin around 22 million tonnes of waste each year, of which about 44 per cent is recycled.

A National Audit Office (NAO) report shows there was a sixfold increase in the quantity of packaging material sent abroad for processing abroad between 2002 and 2017, with exports accounting for half of the packaging reported as recycled in 2017.

However, the NAO warned that millions of tonnes may be ending up in landfill instead of being processed.

Malaysia, Turkey, Poland and Indonesia are the main recipients since China stopped accepting foreign waste.

Malaysia alone took 105,000 tonnes of the UK’s plastic in 2017-18.

But the MPs say it should be dealt with at home.

Edinburgh West MP Christine Jardine said: “The UK needs to stop passing the buck on this and put an end to the irresponsible practice of exporting plastic waste abroad.

“Many countries in the global south simply don’t have means to process the hundreds of thousands of tonnes of plastic they receive from us every year.

“Despite the chaos in which we currently find ourselves, we are one of the richest and most developed nations on earth, so it beggars belief that we are leaving some of the world’s poorest people to deal with our rubbish.”

The motion has been welcomed by environmentalists.

Sian Sutherland, co-founder of campaign group A Plastic Planet, said: “It is immoral and exploitative, and it is happening in our name.”

She added: “The UK should deal with its own dirt – not ship it abroad to others.”