China’s import restrictions on secondary materials will affect the viability of local authority recycling contracts and increase council tax bills, Defra has been warned.
Concern was expressed during a debate at Westminster by Mary Creagh, Labour chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, who told fellow MPs of a visit to London recycling firm Bywaters, during which she was told that the price per tonne of [mixed] paper had fallen from £100 to £20 because of Chinese restrictions.
She said: “That is going to have an impact on the viability of councils’ recycling contracts and will feed through into council tax bills.”
Creagh also challenged environment secretary Michael Gove to set long-term recycling targets for the waste industry, following the steps of the EU’s target to increase recycling rates to 65% by 2035.
Reports that the Government was lobbying against such targets in Brussels were not denied by Gove.
He said: “I do think that setting appropriate recycling targets is absolutely part of it.
“One of the challenges of the EU target is that because weight is such an important component of the way in which they measure the recycling, it doesn’t always incentivise quite the right behaviour.”
He claimed the Government had gone further than the EU in tackling single-use plastics: “We’ve shown that we’ve gone further and faster than the EU – that’s the ambition that this Government has for a truly green Brexit.”
Larac chief executive Lee Marshall confirmed councils were facing decreases in income and increases in gate fees.
”The ban in China is having a real impact on council finances, which is likely to carry into the next financial year, even if prices do pick up a bit as new markets are secured,” he said.
”Councils are at the end of the price chain, so it does feel they are bearing the brunt of the changes as others in the chain pass on the pain.”
MRW’s latest prices report indicates that the average typical rate for mixed paper price for domestic and export was around £50 per tonne, down £10 on the past month with further falls expected.