Defra has confirmed the decision by the Turkish authorities last week to prohibit the import of Polyethylene plastic.
And, in light of a looming ban on plastic exports to non OECD countries, the department has commissioned research to better understand existing plastic waste recycling capacity in both the UK and the OECD.
In an announcement on 18 May, the Turkish Ministry of Trade said it had extended a previous ban on exports to now included polyethylene (see letsrecycle.com story).
Defra says the UK Government has been in regular contact with the Turkish Ministry of Environment as they responded to the original June 2020 media reports of illegal dumping of UK mixed plastic waste in Turkey (see letsrecycle.com story).
The department “is aware” that Turkey has issued a further prohibition last week on the import of polyethylene, but reiterated it is up to exporters to decide where they send their waste.
It added that businesses involved in the shipment of waste are required to take all necessary steps to ensure that the waste they ship is managed in an environmentally sound manner throughout its shipment and during its recycling.
A Defra spokesperson 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.
“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”
“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.”
Turkey has emerged as the largest export destination for plastic packaging waste since China introduced its own restrictions in 2017.
In the first quarter of this year, 49% of plastic exports from the UK ended up in Turkey, despite the tightening of rules at the beginning of the year.
Defra says the UK Government and the Turkish Ministry of Environment have a “collaborative relationship and are continuing to engage on the issue of illegal exports”.
It said when restrictions, such as those seen in Turkey, are imposed, businesses will seek alternative outlets for their waste either overseas or within the UK.
Defra urged any businesses struggling to find outlets and risk waste stockpiling beyond allowable levels should discuss the issue with their local EA team.
Exporters have been advised contact the Turkish authorities prior to export to ensure their import restrictions are being adhered to.
The market for secondary materials is subject to strict controls, and international rules on waste shipments are derived from the Basel Convention and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Control System.
These rules are implemented in the UK which means businesses involved in the shipment of waste are therefore required to take “all necessary steps” to ensure that the waste they ship is managed in an environmentally sound manner throughout its shipment and during its recycling.
Domestic plastic recycling infrastructure in the UK has been ramping up in recent years as part of efforts to drive demand for recycled plastics to replace virgin material.
Biffa, for example, called for a ban on the export of plastics in 2019. It has called on the government to also focus on “phasing out problem plastics and making all plastic more recyclable”.
Meanwhile, Viridor has pledged to stop exports once its Avonmouth Plastic Recycling Facility (PRF) becomes operational later this year.
Viridor’s director of innovation, regulation, sustainability and environment, Tim Rotheray, said: “Viridor welcomes the changes in government policy, including the 2022 Plastics Tax, which are continuing to help drive a real demand for recycled plastic in place of virgin material.
“Viridor has been agile in its response to this growing demand and the corresponding reprocessing capacity gap. This is demonstrated by the continuing investment in vital infrastructure, including the £65m Avonmouth PRF, near Bristol, in addition to existing facilities at Rochester in Kent and Skelmersdale in Lancashire. Avonmouth PRF will be the UK’s biggest multi-polymer plant. When it becomes operational later this year, Viridor will cease the export of recyclable plastic, since the main reasons for export – client demand and reprocessing capacity – will have begun to be meaningfully addressed.”
Source: letsrecycle.com Plastic