Gove Admits To Having No Idea About Impact Of China Recycling Ban

Environment Secretary Michael Gove (pictured) has admitted to the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) that he has no knowledge of the effects that the China situation will bring to the UK recycling sector. 

Labour MP Anne McMorrin asked the Environment Secretary about the impact of the China ban on the UK recycling industry.

Michael Gove responded: “I don’t know what impact it will have… And to be honest, I haven’t given it sufficient thought.”

China announced this year that it will put in place tighter waste import controls from the start of 2018; completely banning the import of mixed, unsorted paper and certain other materials, while also restricting the import of recycled materials to a maximum contamination level of 0.3%.

The problem of capacity and how the UK will handle the waste following the China ban was also questioned by MPs on the Committee.

Michael Gove said that the UK has the capacity to handle the waste meant for China, and that he doesn’t have any worries because the waste industry is “energetic, innovative and ambitious.”

TRA chief executive Simon Ellin said: “It is very disappointing that Michael Gove is not aware of the fundamental impacts that China’s ban will bring to the UK’s recycling and waste industry. As suggested by Labour MP Joan Ryan, we would like to meet and discuss these issues with Mr Gove to make him more aware of the situation.

The question of whether the UK Government had any intention of adopting certain parts of the EU Circular Economy package post-Brexit was asked by Labour MP, Kerry McCarthy, with the Environment Secretary simply replying “yes.”

Labour MP Joan Ryan raised The Recycling Association’s (TRA) Quality First report that was launched at RWM in September.

One of the main actions called for in the report is for the UK to adopt the European Union Circular Economy package, despite Brexit, and apply new regulations on packaging design to help industries deal with the China ban.

Joan Ryan asked Michael Gove to meet with TRA due to the Government not acknowledging the seriousness of the China impact and discuss the actions in the report, but the Environment Secretary would not commit to a meeting.

TRA chief executive Simon Ellin said: “It is very disappointing that Michael Gove is not aware of the fundamental impacts that China’s ban will bring to the UK’s recycling and waste industry. As suggested by Labour MP Joan Ryan, we would like to meet and discuss these issues with Mr Gove to make him more aware of the situation.

“However, we are heartened that some politicians have read TRA’s Quality First report, and unlike the Secretary of State, that the Environmental Audit Committee, chaired by Labour MP Mary Creagh, is taking this issue seriously.”

A video of the Environment Audit Committee’s questioning of Michael Gove can be viewed HERE


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  1. Isn’t it encouraging to know that our Environment Secretary has his finger on the pulse when it comes to this important and well publicised development in the way that China will restrict the importation of certain materials. Is he aware of just how much recycling of all kinds moves to China in the course of a year? Perhaps he can elaborate as to just how our “energetic, innovative and ambitious” domestic recycling industry is going to handle the huge increase in tonnage that will come their way if the ban on certain grades of plastic and paper is fully implemented.

  2. Give him a break mate: he’s only in the job five minutes and if his civil servants haven’t briefed him fully it’s not his fault.
    More important that he gets us free of the EU midden as soon as possible then we can concentrate on sorting out the recycling priorities. We should have been investing in dealing with plastics and paper years ago rather than transporting it halfway round the world.

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