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Chinese import ban leaves farms filled with plastic

Farmers in Wales have complained that they cannot recycle plastic as an indirect consequence of China’s ban on waste imports.

Birch Farm Plastics (BFP), the main company providing this service, said in a statement that it had suspended plastics collections because there was “no sustainable market for recycling agricultural polythene”.

The company said: “The situation regarding the recycling of agricultural polythene has now reached a critical point. Waste plastic is being stockpiled all along the waste trail, from source to collection sites to recycling plants.”

It said this was because restrictions on sending waste plastics to China and other Asian countries had left UK recycling facilities “inundated with material”.

Agricultural plastics faced a particular problem because household plastics are cleaner and cheaper to recycle, and so were preferred for the available capacity.

This meant disposal costs to farmers would increase, “and we will be reverting to thousands of tonnes of recyclable plastic going into landfill”.

BFP said that because there was a legal duty to remove waste from farms, the cost should be shared through extended producer responsibility requirements.

National Farmers Union Cymru rural affairs board chair Hedd Pugh said: “In recent months, NFU Cymru has been contacted by concerned members who have been unable to get their agricultural plastic waste collected by their usual waste collector.”

He said this was because China and some other Asian countries had stopped accepting plastic waste, “with the result that some waste collectors in the UK have had to cease collections from farms”.

Pugh said farmers were permitted to store waste for only a year and, if recycling was unavailable, they would then have to use landfill, which “goes against the grain as farmers would like to see these waste plastics recycled”.

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