How much of your rubbish is sent overseas?

Picture: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire

Picture: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Thousands of tonnes of paper, card and plastic rubbish is being sent overseas by councils, statistics have revealed.

Across the whole of Essex, 440,003 tonnes of waste collected was processed in 2016/17, according to figures from the WasteDataFlow system, which councils use to monitor the end destinations of the waste they collect.

However a National Audit Office report has found that millions of tonnes of plastic waste sent abroad for recycling may actually end up being dumped in landfill.

There were 2,592 tonnes of card and 134 tonnes of paper sent to China by Essex County Council in 2016/17, with the council also sending 272 tonnes of plastic to China and Malaysia, 20 tonnes of plastics to Turkey and 1,444 tonnes of paper and card and 2,012 tonnes of plastics to Spain.

In 2016/17, the most recent figures available, Braintree Council sends paper and card – 33 tonnes in 2016/17, and plastics – 35 tonnes, to EU countries, as well as sending 5,952 tonnes of paper and card and 2,126 tonnes of plastics outside of Europe.

In Chelmsford, 63 tonnes of steel cans and 60 tonnes of textiles were sent to Poland.

A spokesman for Chelmsford City Council said: “The majority of recyclable materials collected within Chelmsford are reprocessed within the UK, but products are manufactured all over the world and ‘waste’ is an international industry too.

Most Read

“Therefore, it is not uncommon for licensed companies to reprocess materials in countries with specialised facilities.”

A spokesman for Braintree District Council said: “Ideally, we would like to see all recycling waste retained in the UK, however we recognise the lack of capacity in the UK market means that some waste has to be exported.

“Our current contractor retains two-thirds of all its output from its recycling sites within the United Kingdom but does export one third of the recycling waste.

“We insist on an audit trail and evidence to demonstrate that exported waste is handled and reprocessed by responsible and ethical companies who hold the necessary licences.”

Cabinet member for environment and waste at Essex County Council, councillor Simon Walsh, said: “The majority of the waste collected by local councils in Essex (around 700,000 tonnes) is managed in the UK however a small proportion of separated waste material is exported to reprocessing facilities outside of the UK.”

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter