UK plastic waste has been found in other countries such as Turkey and Malaysia (Image Caner Ozkan / Greenpeace / PA Wire)

Kent County Council has insisted that waste and recycling produced in Kent is not ‘thrown away’ in other countries amid growing concerns about how the UK is disposing of its waste.

Last week, Greenpeace released a report titled Trashed which found that the UK generates the second highest amount of plastic waste in the world, just behind the US.

He revealed that the UK’s recycling system is already inundated with plastic waste and that in the process of shipping hundreds of thousands of tonnes of plastic to other countries such as Malaysia and Turkey, their systems are also overwhelmed, causing serious damage to their citizens and the environment.

But according to the latest data from Kent County Council, 8.7% of the waste it collects goes to other countries – most of Europe – for treatment, and 76.1% of its waste remains in the county. .

The most recent figures, which relate to fiscal year 2017-2018, show that all recycling waste produced in Kent, 48.8% was recycled or composted, 48.4% was used to generate electricity and only 1.1 percent ended up in landfill.

Plastic waste dumped in Istanbul (Image AP Photo / Mucahit Yapici)

A county council spokesperson said: “Almost all of the recyclable waste we receive, including plastics, is processed and separated into individual materials for recycling at local material recycling facilities.

“From there, plastics collected from households are used for recycling and repackaging. They are sorted into their different types and transported to reprocessing facilities where they are washed and refined into flakes and granules or are resold in the manufacturing industry, for example. the production of plastic milk containers.

“Plastics are all sorted by their different types of polymers in the UK. The existing and new UK and European markets receive plastics for reprocessing and repackaging into new products.

“We work closely with our subcontractors to ensure that the materials they process on our behalf are handled by companies that are responsible, ethical and licensed by the UK Environment Agency.”

The companies that handled the majority of Kent’s recycling were Kent Enviropower Ltd, based in Maidstone, and New Earth Solutions, based in Kings Hill, which collected nearly 55% of the county’s plastic waste for processing.

A total of 88 companies processed varying amounts of Kent recycling, 11 of them sending waste to other countries for treatment.

What happens to recycling in each of the Kent districts?

Some districts of Kent have done better than others when it comes to recycling waste and getting as little waste as possible to landfill.

Recycling is collected weekly or fortnightly in Kent, depending on where you live (Image Simon Morley)
  • Canterbury (60,000 tonnes produced): 43.5% was recycled or composted, 56.4% was turned into electricity and 0.1% was landfilled
  • Dartford (36,826 tonnes produced): 26.2% was recycled or composted, 74.6% was transformed into electricity and 0.2% was landfilled
  • Dover (34,286 tonnes produced): 47.3% was recycled or composted, 50.1% was turned into electricity and 2.6% was landfilled
  • Folkestone (37,151 tonnes produced): 45.3% was recycled or composted, 52.7% was turned into electricity and 2% was landfilled
  • Gravesham (34,167 tonnes produced): 40.7% was recycled or composted, 59.1% was transformed into electricity and 0.2% was landfilled
  • Maidstone (57,509 tonnes produced): 51.1% was recycled or composted, 48.9% was turned into electricity and none was landfilled
  • Sevenoaks (47,161 tons produced): 38.1% was recycled or composted, 61.6% was turned into electricity and 0.3% was landfilled
  • Swale (52,683 tonnes produced): 41.2% was recycled or composted, 57.7% was transformed into electricity and 1.1% was landfilled
  • Thanet (46,504 tonnes produced): 34.9% was recycled or composted, 63.9% was transformed into electricity and 1.2% was landfilled
  • Tonbridge and Malling (50,008 tonnes produced): 41.7% was recycled or composted, 58.3% was turned into electricity and none was landfilled
  • Tunbridge Wells (44,557 tonnes produced): 48.4% was recycled or composted, 51.5% was transformed into electricity and 0.1% was landfilled

What is the solution to reduce plastic waste?

Greenpeace, in its report, says UK government must ban plastic exports by 2025 at the latest, use Environment Bill to set legally binding targets to cut single-use plastic by 50% by 2025 and introduce mandatory plastic reporting by companies. reduction.

They also say the government should implement an all-inclusive drop-off return system for beverage containers with consistent material scope and drop-off level across the UK – including at a minimum plastic, in aluminum and glass, and containers of all sizes – and creating the system conditions for the introduction of reusable and refillable systems for beverage packaging.

English plastic waste found in Turkey (Image Caner Ozkan / Greenpeace / PA Wire)

The report also suggests immediately increasing the funding and staff of the Environment Agency to ensure better monitoring and enforcement of the waste export industry, and to introduce a moratorium on the construction of a new incineration capacity in the United Kingdom.

A spokesperson for the Environment Agency said: “Some specific sorted waste is allowed to be exported to licensed sites in Turkey, but shipments of unsorted or poorly described waste are illegal.

“When we identify poorly described waste, we take strong action, including stopping the waste and returning it to the source, and we can take formal action in accordance with our enforcement and sanction policy, where appropriate. “


A Defra spokesperson said the UK was a “world leader” in tackling plastic pollution.

They said: ‘We are convinced that the UK should treat more of its waste at home, and that is why we are committed to ban the export of plastic waste to non-OECD countries and to curb illegal exports of waste through tighter controls.

“The UK is a world leader in tackling plastic pollution, and we will announce more details on our proposals for a return deposit system for beverage containers and extended producer responsibility for packaging,” which together will dramatically increase recycling rates and reduce waste.

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