UK criticised over failure to support plastic waste technology

Article by Amanda Jasi

Government rebuked for dismissing chemical recycling recommendation

THE UK government has been criticised for dismissing recommendations to support chemical recycling and a ban on all UK plastic waste exports.

The recommendations were made in a November 2022 report by the cross-party Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (EFRA) committee, which was informed by an inquiry launched in 2021. The inquiry looked at the extent to which the government is delivering on its pledge to create a circular plastic economy, particularly in the packaging sector.

Among its suggestions, EFRA advised that government support chemical recycling adoption and make it a component of the UK’s plastics economy and waste management system. In its recently released response to the report, the government argued that chemical recycling activity is already present and it “therefore has a role to play where mechanical recycling is not viable”.

Geoff Brighty, chief sustainability officer of chemical recycling company Mura Technology, said the committee’s “proactive stance on chemical recycling as a viable and essential solution to the plastic challenge has…simply been dismissed”.

The government also argued against a ban on the export of all plastic waste from the UK by 2027 in order to reduce the country’s contribution to global plastic waste pollution. It said that it expects “legitimate exports” will continue to play a role in managing the UK’s plastic waste. However, it reiterated its commitment to banning plastic waste exports to countries that are not members of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The EFRA committee highlighted that non-OECD exports only accounted for 20% of all UK exports in 2020, and the portion continues to shrink.

This article is adapted from an earlier online version.

Article by Amanda Jasi

Staff Reporter, The Chemical Engineer

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