Plastics which might have been recycled ahead of China’s restrictions on quality are being sent to energy from waste plants and to Eastern Europe for used as solid recovered fuel, according to resource charity WRAP.
The confirmation that plastics from local authority sources is being sent for incineration came yesterday from WRAP’s economist, Peter Sainsbury, speaking at the CIWM conference in London yesterday (15 June).
Mr Sainsbury’s comments come as the Recycling Association issues a call for a “relentless focus on improving the quality of recycled materials” or the UK risking losing markets.
The CIWM conference was addressed by Mr Sainsbury on the topic of “Beyond China – how market conditions are impacting on local authorities.” He said that WRAP had carried out a survey of local authorities and found that “some plastics is currently going to EfW and SRF in Eastern Europe.”
And, he also reported that a small number of local authorities were stockpiling materials.
Mr Sainsbury reported that in the wake of restrictions on the export of materials to China for recycling, material was instead going to countries which had “filled the gap for plastics”, including Malaysia, Turkey and Vietnam.
The WRAP economist also referenced the markets for mixed paper earlier this year. He said: “Prices for mixed paper and board dropped to broadly zero pounds per tonne and there has now been a rebound.”
Separately, the Recycling Association this week stepped up its “Quality First” message with chief executive Simon Ellin saying: “News over the last two weeks has shown the need for putting quality first as China, Vietnam, Indonesia and Poland have all announced increased import restrictions and potential new regulations.
“In the case of Vietnam, Indonesia and Poland, this is a direct response to the Chinese ban on plastics and mixed paper, plus detailed inspections of other materials, leading to these countries being flooded with material.”
Mr Ellin continued: “Once the Chinese ban came in, some people thought it wouldn’t be a problem as other destinations were taking this material. But as we warned at the time, it wouldn’t be long before other countries started to respond with tougher regulations. We are now seeing this happening.”
He added that by focusing on improving the quality of UK material, this would help ensure domestic, European and international destinations for paper, plastics and metals.