WRAP: Send UK’s recycling waste to China
by David Masters
August 22, 2008
A Government-funded company claims that sending used plastic bottles and paper to China for recycling causes less damage to the environment than putting them into UK landfill sites.
According to research by the Waste & Recycling Action Plan (WRAP), less CO2 is produced by sending waste products 10,000 miles to China than by burying them in landfill and making brand new items.
WRAP’s study was commissioned to assess the environmental consequences of exporting waste for recycling.
In the last decade UK households have drastically increased their recycling rate, which is up to 30%, compared with 7% ten years ago.
Recycling companies are now finding themselves with more waste on their hands than they can cope with, whilst emerging economies such as China have a high demand for recyclable waste.
Last year the UK exported 4.7 million tonnes of used paper and 0.5 million tonnes of used plastic, with China receiving half the paper and over 80% of the plastic.
Although this may set the alarm bells ringing for environmentalists, it is actually environmentally sound because the containers the waste is sent in would otherwise be sent to China empty, because the UK imports more from China than it exports to China.
Furthermore, the WRAP study found that the CO2 emissions created by shipping the waste to China are just one third of the emissions created if China producted new paper and plastic from scratch.
The report concludes that the evidence ‘is not sufficient to demonstrate that exporting is a desirable outcome’.
In the meantime, though, it seems the greenest option.
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