Plastic waste is building up in the UK following China import ban 

04 January 2018

From the 1st of January 2018 China, one of the UK’s biggest importers of plastic waste has banned any future importation of plastic materials, which has resulted in tonnes of products building up at recycling centres in England.

According to Greenpeace, since 2012 over 2.7 million tonnes of plastic waste has been shipped to China and Hong Kong from UK companies. The UK government are concerned for recycling centres as they now have a vast amount more waste to sort through, which will be the largest amount of plastic waste since 1998. 

China has been the world’s largest importer of recyclable materials for many years so the drastic change will affect many countries around the world. China’s new campaign “foreign garage” is stopping the importation of 24 kinds of waste including the materials polyethene terephthalate drink bottles, other plastic bottles and containers, and all mixed paper

Simon Ellin, chief executive of the UK Recycling Association stated his team has already noticed waste piling up outside their houses and warned that urgent action was needed. “You can already see the impact if you walk around some of our members’ yards. Plastic is building up and if you were to go around those yards in a couple of months’ time the situation would be even worse.” 

With 2018 bringing an uncertain future for many recycling centres it's important for the government to establish a clear plan for local councils to follow to avoid build up for local residents. Although the plastic ban started effectively on the 1st of January many businesses stopped shipping plastic to China in late 2017 in case it wouldn’t arrive on time.

Simon Ellin continues to explain, “We have relied on exporting plastic recycling to China for 20 years and now people do not know what is going to happen. A lot of our members are now sitting back and seeing what comes out of the woodwork, but people are very worried.” 


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