LONDON (Oct. 8, 12:40 p.m. ET) — Plans by the Chinese government to restrict plastic waste imports from the European Union (EU) would render the United Kingdom's recycling target figure of 57 percent by 2017 unachievable, warned the head of the Packaging and Films Association (Pafa).
Barry Turner, Pafa's chief executive, said measures being discussed by a number of Chinese government ministries would see a ban on both the importing of unwashed post-consumer waste and the sale of unwashed plastic waste left over from the sorting of imported plastic and paper.
If implemented and effectively enforced — which has not always been the case in China — the measures would place a huge burden on the UK waste sector, Turner said; one it could not deal with, given the current infrastructure.
“As an industry we are committed to recycling,” Turner told PRW. “However we have said that it would take a decade to achieve a figure of 45 percent, while the government wants us to hit 57 percent in half that time.”
To meet the government's target would require considerable investment in both sorting and processing facilities, Turner said.
“The target will require a further 600,000 metric tons of material [to be dealt with] while we currently have capacity for 250,000 metric tons. We have been saying for some time that we believe the assumptions being made by civil servants advising government have been wrong,” he added.
Of the UK's 433 local councils only two were “anywhere close” to achieving the 57 percent target, said Turner, “which immediately says there is a problem with the system.”
Pafa and the government's own advisory committee had warned the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) a number of times that the targets were unachievable, Turner said.
“We are now witnessing previously unforeseen moves in the Far East which will make them even more unattainable. There is no joined-up thinking on waste and recycling targets and it is clear that the burden of cost and responsibility is being forced on U.K. manufacturers and retailers at a time they can least afford it,” he said.
Turner said was due to have meetings with the new environment minister, Lord de Mauley, which he hoped would prove more fruitful than the industry's recent dealings with the department.