Last week, the Daily Mail published a story about illegal exports, that yet again was misleading about the true picture of recycling in the UK.
In the article with the headline “The great recycling con trick”, the journalist wrote that “millions of tonnes of household rubbish painstakingly sorted by families for recycling is being dumped abroad” and the article states that this waste is being exported to China, India and Indonesia where much of it ends up in landfill (see the article here http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2304773/The-great-recycling-trick-How-carefully-sorted-waste-dumped-abroad.html)
This simply isn’t true and is an insult to the recycling industry in the UK, both domestic and export.
It appears that the Daily Mail has based the article on the local authority guidance page on exports on the Environment Agency website (http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk/business/topics/waste/117676.aspx if you wish to see it) and the Environment Agency has confirmed to me that there is nothing new about this guidance, it hasn’t been updated recently and is general guidance for local authorities on meeting the quality requirements for legitimately and legally exporting secondary commodities.
Clearly, the Daily Mail also hasn’t bothered to discover that exports of “waste” to China are impossible right now, with the severe restrictions in place from CCIC and Chinese customs officials meaning it is very difficult to get materials into China that are not of the very highest, commodity-grade quality.
As an industry, we need to be positive and point out the benefits of recycling, both domestic and export. This article focuses on export of material, and maybe the Daily Mail journalists might like to consider whether they have recently bought a European-manufactured TV for example. I know they haven’t because there isn’t a single manufacturer of televisions in Europe. So in order for resource efficient recycling, it is only right that the boxes those TVs come in, or maybe one day the TV itself, might be exported back to its place of origin, in order to be recycled back into a product. If there is a need for the material here, then it is fair enough that we try to capture as much as is possible for us. But are we really going to stockpile millions of tonnes of paper, plastics and metals in the UK in the hope that one day we might have need for them?
Those in our sector who advocate a resource efficient UK or Europe, also need to recognise the benefits of global trade, and as long as it is on a level playing field, then export of secondary commodities is a perfectly viable and resource efficient market solution.
In the meantime, is there anything we can do to export the Daily Mail somewhere else so it stops spreading these misleading stories?