General Article How Europe’s plastic waste exports contribute to ocean plastic pollution elsewhere

Topic Selected: Waste and Recycling Book Volume: 385

What is the link between how we recycle our plastic waste and ocean plastic pollution, and is this simply a reflection of the inequality which exists between the developed and developing world?

By Maxine Vanbommel

The United Kingdom produces a huge amount of plastic packaging waste, with 2.4 million tonnes generated annually, 1.7 million tonnes of which comes from households. This means that the average household produces a minimum of 61 kilograms of plastic packaging waste every single year. The directly available options to process this waste are: landfill, incineration or recycling, or is there another route?

The link between UK plastic waste exports and ocean plastic 

Although according to DEFRA the UK’s plastic packaging recycling rates reached 46.2% in 2018, well above the EU target of 22.5%, these figures don’t provide the full story as a considerable amount of plastic waste is exported for recycling overseas. Data collected only a year earlier by WRAP suggests that in 2017, ...

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