The UK is a major contributor to the world’s plastic crisis, generating more plastic waste per person than any other country except the USA. Our recycling system is already overwhelmed by plastic waste. Now our waste is overwhelming other countries’ recycling systems too, causing serious harm to their citizens and environment, particularly in Malaysia. Our latest investigation in Turkey provides further evidence.
The UK government needs to take urgent action to tackle this plastic crisis. It can start by banning exports to other countries, including to members of the OECD, to end the dumping of plastic waste that passes for recycling. Some new recycling infrastructure may also be needed so the UK can deal with its own plastic waste.
Most importantly, the UK needs to drastically cut the amount of plastic produced in the first place. Reducing single-use plastic by 50% would not only allow the UK to end waste exports, but would also mean less plastic going into incineration and landfill. The government must mandate a 50% reduction in single-use plastic by 2025 – and supermarkets and major brands must deliver it.