16 October 2019 by Lucy Pegg

Biffa calls for ban on plastic exports

Biffa has called for a ban on the export of plastic waste in order to drive plastic recycling in the UK.

Biffa have called for a ban on plastic exports in a new report

The waste management company said that recycling plastic at home in the UK would retain the material as a resource, generate UK investment and avoid passing environmental issues on to other countries.

Yet the statement comes just weeks after Biffa were sentenced to pay £590,000 in fines and costs after being found guilty of breaching waste export regulations over the export of mixed paper to China in 2015. (see letsrecycle.com story)

Michael Topham, chief executive of Biffa said: “The time has come for decisive action to ensure we only use plastics in a sustainable manner, and to restore confidence in our waste and recycling systems.

“Biffa is today calling for a total ban on the export of unprocessed plastic waste. This will not only ensure our plastic waste is dealt with properly here in the UK but will also support investment and jobs, and provide vital raw materials for the UK circular economy.”

Biffa’s Plastic Surgery: Managing Waste Plastics report, which accompanies the announcement, has key three demands – stop exporting plastic wastes, phase out problem plastics and make recycling easier.

The report was released to coincide with the Queen’s Speech in Parliament yesterday, where the government set out its domestic agenda for the coming term. This included plans for an Environment Bill, which will feature a chapter on waste and recycling policies. (see Letsrecycle.com story)

PRN criticism

Biffa has also supported a review of the Packaging Producer Responsibility (PRN) system, which currently manages packaging waste. It runs its own Biffpack compliance scheme in line with these regulations, but has claimed the current process has led to a “substantial increase” in the export of plastic waste.

“The time has come for decisive action to ensure we only use plastics in a sustainable manner, and to restore confidence in our waste and recycling systems.”

Michael Topham, Biffa

The report said: “In relation to supporting UK recycling more than exports, the current PRN system is a broken system and needs fixing sooner rather than later.”

Biffa believes that a new PRN system should include higher compliance fees for non-recyclable or difficult to recycle plastics to create a new Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) system.

Plastic alternatives

Biffa’s report also warns against the growing popularity of alternatives to plastics, such as compostable and bio plastics, as well as plastic pouches.

It claims these materials give consumers “false confidence” that they are choosing recyclable items, when these materials are more environmentally harmful and can contaminate other conventional recyclate.

Biffa is calling for closed loop systems to ensure that where plastic packaging is used it is “as recyclable as possible”. The company also wants simpler and clearer labelling on packaging, a move it says should be backed by more consistent collections across the UK.

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