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Mixed messages in dumping scandal

September 30, 2008 at 9:56 am

Revelations made by ITV’s Tonight programme (aired 08/09/08) are being underplayed by the recycling industry. The show revealed that recycling collected by 4 separate local councils in the UK is being shipped and dumped illegally in India. Waste collected by Leicestershire County Council, and Wakefield, Wellingborough and Tendring District Councils was discovered 4500 miles away, buried in an area of farmland at the base of the Nilgiri Hills in the state of Tamil Nadu.

According to the programme, a tonne of waste can be dumped in India for £40, as opposed to being recycled within the UK for £148. Apparently a company near to the site is supposed to be importing and recycling British paper waste but is instead buying our waste unsorted, having dollar-a-day labourers sift it, and dumping whatever cannot be used.

The documentary, entitled ‘A Rubbish Service’, and reporter Mark Jordan’s accompanying Daily Mail article, paint a worrying picture.

Not the whole story

However, the Environmental Agency is confident that the vast majority of the 12-14 million tonnes of waste exported from the UK to be recycled in developing countries is done so legally, and claims that the story unearthed by ITV is not indicative of wider problems in the international recycling market.

Head of Waste at the EA, Liz Parks, has voiced concerns over the media handling of the story, identifying the real issue as being “poor quality recyclables” and not the shipping of waste abroad. Paul Dumpleton, Director of Materials for waste and recycling firm Shanks, believes the fault lies with the Indian paper mill close to the site at the centre of the controversy. Speaking to letsrecycle.com, Dumpleton explained that “recyclable material found in the Indian landfill sites were the out throws of the paper mill that was close to the site in question.” He emphatically states that “this has nothing to do with commingled collections. It is nothing to do with illegal shipments. It is just about the process in an Indian paper mill.”

Hopefully Parks and Dumpleton are right, and the documentary’s findings do not herald a bigger problem much closer to home.

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