Green Economy begins at home
By Accounting for Energy – (3 min read)
UK recycling infrastructure is stepping up as waste exports come under scrutiny. The last two years have brought intense examination of routes to export and the impact these may be having on nations that take in waste from the UK. Awareness of the negative impact of certain wastes is nothing new – the Basel Convention, which has been raising awareness around the toxic processing of electrical waste for decades – is just one example. However, recent events have created a perfect storm that has finally led to outrage in all the right places.
The decision by China to close its doors to UK waste, through its National Sword programme, led to panic within an industry which had relied on China to provide markets for paper and plastics. The Chinese market has largely been replaced by other Asian countries such as Malaysia, but the effect of discussions around China, coupled with the airing of the BBC’s Blue Planet II, which showed the devastating effect of marine litter, has led to increasing discomfort with the concept of pushing our problem on to less developed societies.
As the latest Circular Economy Package comes into effect, greater producer responsibility will, hopefully, begin to trickle down to packaging design. In the current climate, however, the industry is divided on how to proceed.
While some claim that exports are necessary to prop up a sector that sends two-thirds of its plastic waste abroad, 35 MPs have signed an Early Day Motion calling for government to deal with “our own waste on UK soil” and issue a complete ban on plastic waste exports to the developing world. The move was proposed by Liberal Democrat Tom Brake, but has cross-party support.
As calls for the UK to invest in its own recycling infrastructure gather pace, Biffa has announced plans to build a new, £15 million plastic recycling facility in the North East. The site aims to process three million bottles each day.
Biffa’s Mick Davis described the plans as an exciting opportunity that will support the country’s plan to find new ways to reuse plastics. New infrastructure is certainly the starting point for a UK-based recycling economy; the next step is to encourage wider business to support the move and drive green procurement.
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