MPs call for ban on plastic exports to prevent pollution

Cross-party MPs have backed an early day motion calling for a complete ban on plastic waste exports to the developing world.

This follows warnings from the National Audit Office (NA) that millions of tonnes of plastic waste exported by the UK to developing nations ends up in landfill or as ocean litter.

Liberal Democrat Tom Brake brought in the motion, which was backed by 35 signatories including Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, Labour’s Geraint Davies and Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith.

An early day motion (EDM) is when an MP wants to draw the attention of Parliament to a particular issue or campaign.

They are not normally debated yet if an EDM attracts hundreds of MP signatures, it is likely there will be a response from government.

Approximately two thirds of plastic waste separated for recycling in the UK is currently sent abroad for processing every year.

“The UK is a global leader in tackling plastic pollution and is already making great strides,” said a Defra spokesperson. “The environment secretary has been clear that we must handle more of our plastic waste at home.

“This is why we have set out reforms in our new Resources and Waste Strategy which will boost the domestic recycling market and impose tougher controls on the waste we do have to export.”

Yet Recycling Association chief executive said the motion was worrying, warning banning exports could lead to the system collapsing.

He said: “Most of our plastic exports take place in a compliant manner. If we were to ban the legitimate trade in recycled plastic, then it will decimate our industry, prices will crash and material will end up in landfill.

“The major problem in many developing countries is their own poor waste management infrastructure, and not plastics imported for recycling.”