April 26, 2013 at 4:15 pm
The Daily Mail has accused the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) of lying to citizens about what happens to their carefully collected recycling. The newspaper points to documents recently released by Defra stating that millions of tonnes of UK household recycling is being dumped abroad, despite that being illegal.
The headlining story entitled ‘The Great Recycling Con Trick’ alleges that most of the waste shipped abroad for recycling is so contaminated it cannot be used and instead ends up in landfill in countries like China, Indonesia and India. The paper also stated that household recycling was not the only problem: old audio-visual equipment ends up buried in West Africa and rubber tyres in China.
Defra have issued a counter-statement in direct response, claiming that the vast majority of recycling sent abroad is in fact re-processed into usable materials. Owen Paterson, the head of the government agency, said that they will be clamping down on UK ports and imbuing authorities with the necessary powers to intervene in the trafficking of illegal waste.
Nevertheless, the Mail alleges that Defra admitted in their own report, that once the recycling is out of UK waters, it is out of their hands and in most cases they do not know what happens to it.
Contaminated recycling is a result of poorly performing household recycling, or poor handling by the waste collection authorities. One way to combat the problems, says Defra, is to introduce stricter controls and penalties at this level.
The new EU Waste Directive, which came into play this year, also put pressure on the UK to export vast quantities of recyclable waste abroad.