China’s ban on importing millions of tonnes of plastic waste is already causing a build up of rubbish at recycling plants around the UK, experts have warned.
The decision, which means that half a billion tons of the toxic substance could be burned in Britain rather than exported is predicted to bring chaos for councils in the weeks ahead.
Not that people have to know this of course. But it is useful for a journalist to have a rough idea of relative numbers and sizes. Plastics consumption (or, perhaps, use then throw away) is of the order of 300 million tonnes a year globally.
It’s really not likely at all that we’ll end up burning 500 million tonnes in the UK alone.
Also, plastics aren’t toxic, that’s rather the point of them. Their combustion products, if not combusted properly, can be, but it is very much the point of plastics that they don’t in fact poison us.
Simon Ellin, chief executive of the UK Recycling Association, said his members had already seen lower grade plastics piling up and warned urgent action was needed.
“You can already see the impact if you walk round some of our members’ yards,” he said.
“Plastic is building up and if you were to go around those yards in a couple of months’ time the situation would be even worse.”
The leaders of the UK’s recycling industry admitted that they have “no idea” how to cope as China’s policy came into force on January 1.
But on to the much more important point. There’s no use for this stuff, is there? That’s why it’s piling up.
So, why in fuck are we recycling it?