The Chinese ban on imports of plastic bags will not have a major impact on the UK because it only represents a small proportion of the waste stream, according to the Environment Agency (EA).
Since March 1 2008 China has not accepted plastic film materials from the household waste stream, including black sack material, carrier bags and netting for recycling. But China still accepts plastic film from the commercial waste stream.
An EA spokesman said the ban was not going to affect packaging waste exports because less than 1% of plastic bags were collected for recycling.
However, the spokesman added that materials recycling facilities (MRFs) might need to segregate the waste they collect more closely. He said: They need to be much more thorough in separating their waste and make sure that they take out plastic bags among their plastic waste stream. We will have a pragmatic way of regulating this. If we find one plastic bag in a container due for export we will be lenient. But if we find a lot of plastic bags in a container we will look at taking enforced action.
The spokesman continued to say that the Chinese ban on plastic packaging waste could be seen as a good thing. He said: It will ensure that MRFs are checking their waste properly and the quality of the stuff going to China will be better. It will also help expand plastic bag recycling in the UK.
Waste exporters tend to be very clued up on new laws and regulations so they should be aware of this new ban.