Exports of recyclable material should not be restricted to benefit domestic reprocessors, according to the Environmental Services Association (ESA).
In a new briefing note, ‘Overseas options: the importance of exports to UK recycling’, the ESA said the export market for UK recyclate has helped quadruple UK recycling rates over the past decade, maximising the economic and environmental benefits.
ESA’s Director of Policy, Matthew Farrow said the export market has allowed waste management firms to expand collections rates beyond the requirements of the domestic reprocessing sector which does not have the capacity to take all the material collected.
While supporting measures to offset the cost of energy to UK reprocessors, the ESA said it opposed restricting exports or forcing them to be redirected to the domestic market as this would lead to falling recycling rates and increased landfilling or incineration of surplus material.
Farrow said: “ESA’s members want to see a thriving UK reprocessing sector and several are investing in their own UK reprocessing facilities. We support measures to help compensate energy-intensive reprocessors for their high energy costs, as these firms can save more carbon through reprocessing than they emit.
“At the same time, we must recognize that exports of sorted recyclate to overseas reprocessors, often paying high prices and working to high quality specifications, will have a role to play in further raising our recycling rates for some time to come.”
The briefing note said overseas reprocessors often pay higher prices for quality recyclate.
Benefits to the UK from a wide range of export markets include minimising the risk of market shocks and increasing sales income for local authorities, the report said.