Plastics: Exports

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered on 8th February 2018.

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Photo of Anne Main Anne Main Conservative, St Albans

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what steps he is taking to ensure that plastic waste exported from the UK is being used in an environmentally-friendly way.

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

Businesses involved in the shipment of wastes are required to take all necessary steps to ensure that the waste they ship is managed in an environmentally sound manner throughout its shipment and during its recycling.

The UK environmental regulators take an intelligence led approach to checking compliance with these obligations focussing on specific problematic wastes. Enforcement activity occurs in transit, at roadsides and at ports. However, the regulators continue to focus significant effort on identifying, stopping and intervening at source prior to illegal exports taking place.

The regulators also provide easily understood guidance for those responsible for exporting waste which allows anyone involved in the export of waste to determine which wastes can be legitimately exported to which countries and the procedures they must follow to do things legally.

Last year the Environment Agency issued 130 stop notices, prohibiting the export of unsuitable waste. It also stopped 4,565 tonnes of waste destined for illegal export at ports and intervened further upstream to prevent a further 15,113 tonnes of waste from reaching our ports. This work ensures we’re not exporting our problem wastes for unsuitable treatment or disposal.

We cannot ultimately dictate how UK waste is managed once it leaves the UK. There is a system of international rules on shipments which must be followed. The authorities in countries that receive UK waste also need to be clear about the types of waste they will accept and the waste import procedures they require exporters to adhere to.

Tackling waste is a top priority for the government. The Clean Growth Strategy, published on 12 October 2017, set out our ambition for zero avoidable waste by 2050 and announced we are exploring changes to the producer responsibility scheme. We must reduce the amount of waste we produce overall and increase the amount we recycle in the UK. We will set out further steps when we publish a new Resources and Waste Strategy later this year.

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