Beat Plastic Pollution

Labor calls for recycling investment and end to plastic waste exports

Labor has accused the Government of failing to invest enough in measures to combat fly-tipping and indicated it would end plastic waste exports.

In a debate on illegal waste dumping held in Parliament this week, shadow environment minister Ruth Jones said: “Until ministers step up and give councils the resources they need to keep our communities clean and safe, [MPs] will continue to raise this issue and seek help, change and assistance.

“Thanks to a lost decade of Tory austerity, plastic waste is piling up on high streets and street corners, and in our green open spaces.”

Jones said waste was being exported to some of the world’s poorest countries, “where what was supposed to be recycled material ends up in landfill, polluting our oceans [and] it is then shipped back to Britain for us to deal with.

“This is a very real problem, and it requires speedy, comprehensive and properly funded solutions.”

She noted that Laura Trott, the Conservative MP for Sevenoaks, had highlighted the decrease in prosecution by the Environment Agency.

Jones said: “There is a reason for that: these agencies have been underfunded and understaffed for many years, and they have struggled to tackle waste crime and monitor waste exports because of the cuts to their budgets and staff numbers.”

She added: “Labour believes that we need a more circular economy in the UK. The raw materials used to create our products should come from recycling our waste.

“Indeed, a Labor Government would take on the global waste crisis by investing in a new plastics recycling and remanufacturing industry, creating thousands of jobs, ending exports of plastic waste and reducing our contribution to ocean pollution.”

The debate was called by Saqib Bhatti, Conservative MP for Meriden, who asked environment minister Jo Churchill to consider a wider role for community organizations in dealing with fly-tipping, with further powers for parish councils.

Bhatti also asked Churchill to confirm “she is talking to local councils, or the relevant department, to ensure that local councils have the means to tackle fly-tipping?”

He feared his constituents would be put at risk by dangerous fly-tippers “who are sometimes involved with organised crime, and that the police are not able to do enough to tackle the problem”.

Responding to the debate, Churchill said she was due to meet mattress manufacturers on 6 June, “because of mattress mountains – I think it was [Conservative MP] Paul Bristow who mentioned mattresses being dumped. It is a problem up and down the land.”

Churchill said since previous debates on fly-tipping “we have made significant progress and we have given local authorities and regulators new tools to tackle the menace, but we need them to use their powers.”

She added: “If councils really want to help us with fly-tipping, they must take every ability we have given them to beat it.”

The paint industry had recently put adoption of a take-back scheme to Churchill after a pilot in Cambridgeshire and she said that while extended producer responsibility was “slowly going through…I want to see manufacturers coming forward and voluntarily saying what they will do with their items.”

Bhatti had suggested mobile vans could collect goods that were unsuitable for conventional household recycling.

Churchill called the idea “fascinating to explore a little more, particularly for items that are difficult to recycle, such as lithium batteries.

“Having a small van where those items can be left might work very well.”

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