Thank you for setting out your concerns about the export of plastic waste.
My website sets out my position regarding plastic waste and the significant steps which have been taken to date to deal with plastic waste, as well as the further steps which will be taken in the years ahead - Plastic waste - February 2021 | Richard Fuller
The Government's 25 Year Environment Plan sets out the ambition to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste by the end of 2042 - https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/693158/25-year-environment-plan.pdf and many of those measures are already being taken forward in the Environment Bill, which is presently before Parliament.
Specifically in relation to the export of plastic waste, I was elected on a manifesto which pledged to ban the export of all plastic waste to non-OECD countries and I remain committed to clamping down on illegal waste exports. I know that ministers plan to introduce tougher controls on illegal waste exports, and the Environment Bill includes a power to introduce mandatory electronic tracking of waste which will make it harder for criminals to obtain and export waste illegally. I understand that a consultation on this will be launched in the Autumn.
It is illegal to export waste from the UK to be dumped or burned overseas. Under the UK legislation on waste shipments, businesses involved in the export of wastes are required to take all necessary steps to ensure that the waste they ship is managed in an environmentally sound manner throughout its shipment and during its recycling. It is welcome that over the last 12 months, monitoring by the Environment Agency has had a particular focus on preventing illegal plastic waste exports.
It is important that we promote UK-based recycling and export less waste to be processed abroad. I am therefore pleased that we are recycling more in the UK than ever before. This is not only good for the environment but can boost economic growth and create jobs. Where the UK cannot currently recycle materials economically, exports can help ensure those materials are recycled in recipient countries. While there is a legitimate global market for secondary materials, it must be, and is, subject to strict controls.
All waste exports need to be made in accordance with the relevant legislation and the UK has a system of inspections in place to verify compliance. The Environment Agency mounts targeted inspections at UK ports working with the shipping sector to help detect and prevent illegal waste shipments. It is welcome that any operators found to be illegally exporting waste can face severe sanctions, from financial penalties to imprisonment for a period of up to two years.
It is illegal to export waste from the UK to be dumped or burned overseas. Under the UK legislation on waste shipments, businesses involved in the export of waste are required to take all necessary steps to ensure that the waste they ship is managed in an environmentally sound manner throughout its shipment and during its recycling. I am encouraged that the Environment Agency has been proactively engaging with the authorities in Turkey on the issue of illegal plastic waste exports over the past year. The Environment Agency has also liaised with Greenpeace, following their recent report, in order to seek information which could assist them with their compliance monitoring and enforcement of waste exports to Turkey.
I have not written to the Environment Minister or signed the pledge, as DEFRA ministers have confirmed to Parliament the action being taken to address these concerns (as set out in this email) and I would like to assure you that all waste exports need to be made in accordance with the relevant legislation and the UK regulators have a system of inspections in place to verify compliance under the waste exports and packaging regimes respectively. Over the last 12 months, monitoring by the Environment Agency has had a particular focus on preventing illegal plastic waste exports. In 2020, the Agency prevented the illegal export of 46 shipping containers of plastic waste to Turkey and this year they have already prevented the illegal export of 122 further containers. The Environment Agency has developed a good relationship with the Turkish Ministry of Environment, who have expressed their thanks for the UK’s collaborative approach in preventing illegal exports of waste to Turkey. As you may be aware, Turkey has now banned the import of most plastic wastes.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.
Richard Fuller MP