Plastics: Waste

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered on 5th July 2018.

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Photo of Caroline Lucas Caroline Lucas Co-Leader of the Green Party

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what safeguards are in place to ensure that the UK does not export plastic waste to countries where child labour is used in the process of processing and recycling that waste.

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

Businesses involved in the export of all wastes are required to take the necessary steps to ensure that the waste they ship is managed in an environmentally sound manner without endangering human health throughout its shipment and during its recycling.

The UK supports the International Labour Organisation convention on child labour. At the 2017 Global Conference on Child Labour and Forced Labour we pledged to carry out concrete actions towards the realisation of Sustainable Development Goal 8.7 to accelerate the elimination of all forms of child labour. Through our flagship £30 million programme to promote Responsible, Accountable and Transparent Enterprise (RATE) we are working with partners such as the UN Global Compact and the non-profit organisation B Lab, to encourage companies to achieve higher social standards and operate in a more environmentally sustainable way.

The UK environmental regulators 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 wastes. 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 are not exporting our problem wastes for unsuitable treatment or disposal.

Our ambition is to handle more of our waste in the UK. While there has been a significant increase in recycling over the last 10 years, there is more that needs to be done and we will set out proposals in our Waste and Resources Strategy.

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