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UK plastics industry backs export restrictions

The British Plastics Federation (BPF) has thrown its weight behind Norway’s proposal to reclassify plastic waste exports as hazardous.

Norway has tabled the proposal to the United Nations’ Basel Convention, which regulates cross-border movements of hazardous wastes and their disposal.

The BPF said the Norway proposal would mean that all mixed non-hazardous plastics would be subject to similar administrative controls to those used to regulate hazardous waste shipments.

Basel Convention members are due to vote on the matter in May. Axion Polymers recently gave its backing to the proposal.

The BPF said in its policy statement that low-grade, mixed plastic waste exports should undergo tighter controls, irrespective of their destination. It said this would encourage an improved quality of sorted plastics from MRFs in the UK. It noted that dependence on plastic waste exports had exposed the country to criticism that it contributes to marine plastic pollution.

BPF director-general Philip Law said: “Improving the quality of plastic waste exports has the highly important potential to boost the recycling industry, can contribute toward reducing the over-reliance on plastic waste exports and in developing a domestic recycling culture.”

The organisation said that around 65% of UK-collected plastic packaging material is exported for downstream sorting and recovery in overseas markets, reaching 650,000 tonnes in 2018 compared with less than 400,000 tonnes reprocessed domestically.

Despite its support for the Norway proposal, the BPF said it would be unrealistic to expect the plastics recycling industry “to make a rapid and sudden shift away from export routes” for more than half the UK tonnage. It said that regulatory changes should be phased in over three to five years.

 

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