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Turning off the plastics tap

Cross-party MPs join call for a ban on the export of our plastic waste to the developing world
Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod
Landfill in Kayu Madang, Sabah Borneo, Malaysia.

A group of cross-party MPs – including Conservative Zac Goldsmith MP, former Green Party leader Caroline Lucas MP and Labour’s Geraint Davies MP – has called for a complete ban on the export of the UK’s plastic waste to developing countries.

An Early Day Motion echoing environment campaign group A Plastic Planet’s calls for the ban has been signed by more than 30 cross-party MPs. The motion was proposed by Liberal Democrat MP Tom Brake.

Exporting our waste

Concerned by the sight of piles of Britain’s plastic rubbish in the developing world, MPs strongly condemned the practice of placing the onus of dealing with the UK’s waste on to the world’s poorest people.

They highlighted that two-thirds of plastic waste separated for recycling in the UK is sent abroad for processing, while 105,000 tonnes of the UK’s plastic was imported by Malaysia alone in 2017-2018.

In 2018 the National Audit Office warned that millions of tonnes of plastic sent abroad for recycling may be being sent to landfill rather than being processed.

‘immoral and exploitative’

A Plastic Planet welcomed the motion which further increases pressure for the introduction of legislation which will see the UK’s waste dealt with on home soil.

In late 2018 a host of business leaders and high-profile figures including Sky chief executive Jeremy Darroch, Iceland managing director Richard Walker and UN Patron of the Wilderness Ben Fogle backed a ban in an open letter.

Sian Sutherland, A Plastic Planet co-founder, said: ‘Go to any developing country and you will see the irrefutable evidence of the west’s addiction to plastic. For decades we’ve buried our heads about recycling being the answer. Now we know that we have been sending our waste to some of the world’s poorest people. It is immoral and exploitative, and it is happening in our name.’

Sian added that MPs from all sides were right to call for an end to ‘the despicable practice of exporting plastic waste abroad’. ‘Let’s deal with our own waste here in the UK’, she added. ‘Our waste is invisible to us. We used to think popping it in the right bin is where our responsibility ends. The UK should deal with its own dirt – not ship it abroad to others. The answer is clear – we must urgently turn off the plastic tap.’

Click here to read the National Audit Office report on recycling.

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