UK watchdog examining claims plastic waste is not being recycled but left to leak into rivers and oceans
The plastics recycling industry is facing an investigation into suspected widespread abuse and fraud within the export system amid warnings the world is about to close the door on UK packaging waste, the Guardian has learned.
The Environment Agency (EA) has set up a team of investigators, including three retired police officers, in an attempt to deal with complaints that organised criminals and firms are abusing the system.
Six UK exporters of plastic waste have had their licences suspended or cancelled in the last three months, according to EA data. One firm has had 57 containers of plastic waste stopped at UK ports in the last three years due to concerns over contamination of waste.
Allegations that the agency is understood to be investigating include:
- Exporters are falsely claiming for tens of thousands of tonnes of plastic waste which might not exist
- UK plastic waste is not being recycled and is being left to leak into rivers and oceans
- Illegal shipments of plastic waste are being routed to the Far East via the Netherlands
- UK firms with serial offences of shipping contaminated waste are being allowed to continue exporting.
UK households and businesses used 11m tonnes of packaging last year, according to government figures. Two-thirds of our plastic packaging waste is exported by an export industry which was worth more than £50m last year.