Export quality

Illegal exports have been a hot topic lately, as domestic reprocessors highlight their detrimental impact, governments consult on changing regulations, and authorities nab perpetrators. Will Simpson investigates

This article was taken from Issue 73

It’s an issue that every so often provokes shocking headlines and with them disturbing mental images, of toxic junk dumped unceremoniously somewhere in the developing world. Illegal waste shipments are certainly a major problem and it’s unclear how big a problem they are. One estimate, courtesy of the European Commission, suggests that around 25 per cent of all waste shipments sent from the EU to non-OECD countries contravene international regulations – a figure that, if true, is more than a little shocking.

And it has been in the news again recently. The British Plastic Federation has intimated that for domestic plastic recycling targets to be met, the UK’s ‘over-reliance’ on exporting (often poor-quality) plastic waste to the Far East has to be curtailed. In any case, our hand may soon be forced: Malaysia has already banned all plastic waste from the EU, and, in autumn 2012, China announced plans to prohibit the import of unwashed plastic waste and ban imported waste from being transferred to any company other than the one stated on an import licence.