Plastic Waste Recycling

Oral Answers to Questions — Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 12th July 2018.

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Photo of Liz Twist Liz Twist Labour, Blaydon 12:00 am, 12th July 2018

What recent estimate he has made of the amount of plastic waste that the UK sends overseas for recycling.

Photo of Jessica Morden Jessica Morden Opposition Whip (Commons)

What steps he is taking to reduce the amount of plastic waste that the UK sends overseas for recycling.

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs estimates that in 2017 there were exports of 661,000 tonnes, compared with 790,000 the year before. Since China banned imports of certain plastic waste at the start of this year, exports to China have fallen significantly, but exports to other countries have risen. We want to ensure more and better-quality plastic recycling in the UK, and we will set out measures for this in our resources and waste strategy later this year.

Photo of Liz Twist Liz Twist Labour, Blaydon

Will the Minister give the House more detail on the likely impact on UK plastic pollution of China’s and Thailand’s decision to restrict UK dry recycling imports?

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

As I said, exports to China have fallen drastically, but other countries such as Turkey and Vietnam have taken on more of the plastic waste. Our issue has been more with the paper waste that China used to take from us. It is proving a challenge to get the price that it used to attract.

Photo of Jessica Morden Jessica Morden Opposition Whip (Commons)

Wales has the best recycling rate in the UK and the second best in Europe, and the Welsh Labour Government have the stated aim of being the first “refill nation”. Could not the Department learn a lot from Wales, including on plastics that we send abroad, and incorporate that in the upcoming resources and waste strategy for England?

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Indeed. I give credit to the Welsh Government for their progress, as I have at the EU Environment Council in the past, and I assure the hon. Lady that we have been looking carefully at what they are doing.

Photo of Mary Creagh Mary Creagh Chair, Environmental Audit Committee

It is vital that we recycle more of our plastic waste here at home and create jobs and growth in every nation and region of this great country. I welcome the Secretary of State’s commitment to my Committee yesterday to recycle half of England’s 35 million asthma inhalers by 2020, not only because of the damaging plastic but because of the damaging fluorinated gases—greenhouse gases—that they release into the atmosphere. Will the Minister enshrine the principle of extended producer responsibility into law through the waste strategy so that more producers are responsible for the waste they produce?

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Extended producer responsibility is already part of the legal framework that exists today. I assure the hon. Lady that EPR and the PRN—packaging recovery note—are being very carefully looked at, but she will have to wait until later in the year.