Waste operators are already finding alternative export markets for waste, according to a written ministerial statement by Environment Secretary Michael Gove, following the announcement last year that China intends to crack down on its contaminated waste imports.
The statement follows the news that China has announced its ban on the import of certain types of waste, including mixed paper and post-consumer plastics, will be enforced from March 2018, meaning exporters around the world will have to meet a reduced acceptable contamination level of 0.5% from then, or find other markets.
In a statement released earlier this week, Environment Secretary Michael Gove released a written ministerial statement, which claimed there is evidence that some operators have already been finding alternative export markets in response to the Chinese restrictions.
“Data for the third quarter of last year showed increases in exports of plastics to Turkey, Taiwan, Vietnam and Malaysia and increases in exports of paper to Turkey, Taiwan and Vietnam,” he said.
“Data for the third quarter of last year showed increases in exports of plastics to Turkey, Taiwan, Vietnam and Malaysia and increases in exports of paper to Turkey, Taiwan and Vietnam”
Gove also stressed in the statement that operators must continue to manage waste on their sites in accordance with the permit conditions issued by the Environment Agency.
Where export markets or domestic reprocessing are not available, the process chosen to manage waste must be the one that minimises the environmental impact of treatment as fully as possible and follows the waste hierarchy.
“This requires operators to ensure that where waste cannot be prevented or reused it is recycled where practicable, before considering energy recovery through incineration or the last resort of disposal to landfill,” he said.
He went on to say he recognises China’s decision will cause “some issues in the short term” for recycling in the UK, saying: “We will continue to work closely with industry, the Environment Agency, local authorities and all interested parties to manage those issues.
“The Government remains committed to maximising the value we get from our resources, and is already assessing how we handle our waste in the UK in the longer term.”
He said China’s decision underlines the need for progress in all these areas, in particular, the reduction in the amount of waste produced overall and in particular the amount exported.