“The UK is a global leader in tackling plastic pollution.”

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

May 17, 2021

Facts 

The UK's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: "We are clear that the UK should handle more of its waste at home, and that's why we are committed to banning the export of plastic waste to non-OECD countries and clamping down on illegal waste exports - including to countries such as Turkey - through tougher controls.

"The UK is a global leader in tackling plastic pollution and our proposals for extended producer responsibility for packaging, a plastic packaging tax and mandatory electronic waste tracking will boost recycling rates, reduce waste and cut crime."

According to Greenpeace, the UK generates more plastic waste per person than any other country apart from the US - and it continues to dump its waste on other countries. 

The UK’s export of plastic waste to Turkey has increased by a factor of 18 since 2016, when 12,000 tonnes were sent. In 2020, Turkey received nearly 40% of the UK's plastic waste exports.

Last year, Malaysia's environment minister said they had sent back 150 shipping containers of illegally imported plastic waste to their country of origin - 42 of which belonged to the UK.

When we approached the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs a spokesperson said: 

“The UK is a global leader in tackling plastic pollution. We are making great strides to tackle the plastic that blights our streets, rivers and oceans – protecting wildlife from ingesting harmful plastic by banning microbeads in rinse-off personal care products.

“We have banned microbeads in rinse-off personal care products, prohibited the supply of plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds, and our 5p Single-Use Carrier Bag Charge has cut sales in the main supermarkets by 95% since 2015, taking billions of bags out of circulation. Following the huge success of the 5p charge, in May 2021 we increased the minimum charge to 10p and extended it to all retailers, ensuring we can target billions more bags.

“Our landmark Environment Bill will give us a raft of new powers to step-up our war against plastic pollution and litter: We are committed to introducing a Deposit Return Scheme for drinks containers, which will recycle billions more plastic bottles and stop them being landfilled or littered, subject to the outcome of consultation held earlier this year.

“Our Extended Producer Responsibility scheme for packaging will make manufacturers responsible for the full net cost of recycling their packaging waste and encourage more recyclable packaging, subject to the outcome of consultation held earlier this year.

“We will introduce Consistent Recycling Collections for every household and business in England, ensuring more plastic is recycled and not condemned to landfill, subject to the outcome of consultation held earlier this year. We will consult on banning the export of plastic waste to non-OECD countries. Single-use plastic plates, cutlery and polystyrene cups are among a raft of items that could be banned in England as part of a new public consultation being launched in the Autumn. These proposals will lead to businesses using more sustainable alternatives and prevent plastic litter from polluting our landscapes. Further details of the consultation, including the full list of single-use items under review, will be announced in the upcoming weeks.

“We will also introduce a world-leading plastic packaging tax from April 2022, set at £200/t, on plastic packaging which doesn’t meet a minimum threshold of at least 30% recycled content. This will encourage greater use of recycled plastic to tackle the problem of plastic waste and protect our environment.”

Verdict

DEFRA gave us a long list of its plans to tackle plastic pollution. Until these plans take effect, its claim that Britain is “a global leader” in tackling plastic pollution carries little credibility. As matters stand, Britain is one of the world’s biggest plastic polluters.

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