China ban creates opportunities for secondary markets in the UK says Environment Minister

Thérèse Coffe
Thérèse Coffey pic: Foreign and Commonwealth Office

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Thérèse Coffey has said that the China ban creates ‘the opportunity for secondary markets to develop further’ in the UK.  

This comment was made during a Parliamentary discussion in the House of Commons last night about Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), which was led by Anna McMorrin MP, who has drafted a bill to ensure that producers pay for the plastic waste they create.  


McMorrin stated that PRN’s and PERN’S are sold on a volatile market, meaning that the growth of the UK recycling capacity is restricted, and instead of investing in the infrastructure, the growth of the waste sector has been reached through exporting waste and the “dependence of the export market”. 

From this, the Environment Minister stated that she understands the changes that plastic and paper have had following the China situation, but that other markets have appeared, and that the 30% recycling tax is a “game changer”.  

She added that the Government is seeking views on proposals for ensuring that packaging waste exports are managed fairly and responsibly, and for how a reformed system can become more transparent.  

The Minister stated that as of last Friday, she had received 73 responses, with an expectation of many more by the deadline on 13 May.  

Discussing EPR, McMorrin argued that there needs to be a systematic change at Government and industry level to see improvements, as councils can’t keep funding the price of the system due to cuts to communications and kerbside plastic recycling collection.  

She added that producers, retailers, manufacturers and more all acknowledge that the system needs to change, and that they need to take more responsibility, but certain things need to happen:  

  • Any new EPR scheme must have complete transparency so it’s clear where the fees collected from producers and retailers are being spent. Any fees should be put back into the recycling system to make it work 
  • Local authorities should have enough funding for any recycling or waste collection they undertake 
  • Charges of producers should be modulated, and changed based on the recyclability of packaging, and with higher fees for using more environmentally damaging materials 
  • Any new scheme should encourage innovation in packaging design and be capable of responding to improvements in packaging production 
  • Local authorities should be supported to improve the consistency of material collected for recycling.  

The Environment Minister said that a key part of the Resources and Waste Strategy is a set of principles that will act as a framework for reviewing existing producer responsibility schemes and developing new ones.  

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