Thank you to all constituents who have contacted me regarding UK waste exports. This is an issue which greatly concerns me.
The UK remains committed to clamping down on illegal waste exports. I am pleased to have been elected on a manifesto which pledged to ban the export of all plastic waste to non-OECD countries, and Ministers plan to introduce tougher controls on waste exports, including mandatory electronic waste tracking which will make it harder for criminals to obtain and export waste illegally. Work is underway to consult on these measures and research has been commissioned to better understand existing UK plastic waste recycling capacity. Ministers currently plan to consult before the end of 2022 on options to deliver the proposed ban.
It is important that we promote UK-based recycling and export less waste to be processed abroad, however, and we are recycling more in the UK than ever before. This is not only good for the environment but can boost economic growth and create jobs. The Resources and Waste Strategy sets out plans to reduce, reuse, and recycle more plastic than we do now. The target is to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste throughout the life of the Government's 25 Year Environment Plan, but for the most problematic plastics Ministers are going faster and have committed to work towards all plastic packaging placed on the market being recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2025.
To keep products in circulation for longer Ministers are taking steps through the Environment Bill to require products to be designed to be durable, repairable, and recyclable, as well as legislating for the use of extended producer responsibility schemes in a way that incentivises more resource efficient design. The Bill also includes powers to enable other commitments to be delivered which will improve the quantity and quality of the materials we recycle. These include commitments to implement a Deposit Return Scheme for drinks containers and the introduction of consistent recycling collections across the country.
Further, the Government have announced key details of the world leading Plastic Packaging Tax. The initial rate of the tax will be £200 per tonne and it will be paid by manufacturers and importers of plastic packaging that contains less than 30 per cent recycled plastic. Building on the microbeads ban, restrictions on the supply of plastic straws, drinks stirrers and cotton buds came into force on 1st October 2020, with exemptions to ensure that those with medical needs or a disability are able to continue to access plastic straws.
Where the UK cannot currently recycle materials economically, exports can help ensure those materials are recycled in recipient countries. While there is a legitimate global market for secondary materials, it must be, and is, subject to strict controls.
The four UK regulators have a range of enforcement tools and sanctions available in respect to waste exports offences. In England in 2018/19, the Environment Agency inspected almost 1,000 shipping containers at ports and returned over 200 of those to sites. During this period, the Agency also prevented 12,000 tonnes of waste from reaching ports which may have otherwise been exported illegally. Any operators found to be illegally exporting waste can face severe sanctions, from financial penalties to imprisonment for a period of up to two years.
Fiona Bruce MP
Member of Parliament for the Congleton Constituency