UK Plastics Group Questions Future of Export Market

PAFA says China is considering banning some plastic scrap imports.

October 10, 2012
Recycling Today Staff

The Packaging and Films Association (PAFA), based in the United Kingdom, says that China is considering measures that mirror a ban on plastic scrap from the European Union recently announced by Malaysia. PAFA is a trade association representing marketers of film, flexible and thermoformed packaging in the United Kingdom.

In a release, PAFA says that a potential move to ban the export of plastic scrap from the U.K. to China could mark the end of the large-scale importation of plastic scrap from Europe and jeopardize the chance of the U.K. meeting new government recycling targets. “The new recycling targets, already heavily criticized as unrealistic due to the lack of adequate collection and recycling infrastructure, will fail even sooner than expected if these new developments in the Far East come about,” says Barry Turner, CEO of PAFA.

In a statement, PAFA says that the announcement made by China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection, Ministry of Commerce and National Development and Reform Commission, state that it will consider strictly enforcing regulations that prohibit the import of unwashed, post-consumer plastics as well as banning the transfer of imported waste to a company other than that allowed by the import license. It also will not allow companies to sell unwashed leftover plastic from sorting of imported plastic and paper.

“This will require a significant investment in Europe to fill the size of the hole created which will require time to develop” says Turner, “But such moves would have a huge impact on the waste industry in the U.K., especially when it comes to meeting plastic recycling targets set by DEFRA (the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs).

“With much of the 67 percent of Britain’s plastic waste being exported to the Far East, particularly China, according to DEFRA statistics, and the U.K. already short of plastic collection and recycling facilities, I believe reaching the target of 57 percent by 2017 will be even more unrealistic and out of touch,” Turner adds.

PAFA argues that the change of attitude to reprocessing Europe’s waste in the Far East makes it imperative that DEFRA urgently rethinks the burden placed on industry in its latest recycling targets. “Last year, DEFRA was advised against this unachievable level of targets by its own advisory committee and now we are witnessing previously unforeseen moves in the Far East, which will make them even more unattainable. There is no joined-up thinking on waste and recycling targets and it is clear that the burden of cost and responsibility is being forced on UK manufacturers and retailers at a time they can least afford it,” Turner says.