We are in times of trouble when it comes to rubbish and recyclables. You may or may not know that over the last few years, China has been cutting down on the amount and quality of waste and recyclables that they will take from Britain. In January 2018, those limits became incredibly strict, putting Britain in a very difficult position.


The problem worsens

In the past, we sent recyclables to China to be recycled, and non-recyclable waste either went to our landfills, incinerators or to export markets. According to the National Audit Office, and the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), we are no longer quite sure what is happening to our exported waste, with the presumption now being that some of it is going to foreign landfills.


In the UK, businesses which produce a large enough amount of waste must prove that a certain amount of that is being recycled. These 7,000 businesses are not being being well enough supported by DEFRA, if it appears that exported waste is in fact going to landfill. That creates a breakdown in the chain that can only lead to further mismanagement of waste.


Where is it going?

China used to take almost all of our recyclable waste, but now it’s going to Turkey, Malaysia, Poland and Thailand, to name just a few. The problem is, these countries are not taking good, clean, recyclable waste, they are taking dirty, contaminated and unwanted waste, which accounts for about a third of our domestic recyclables. These poor quality materials are exported to countries who will take them, rather than countries who can properly handle and treat them. This is what increases the risk of pollution and landfill usage.


What about when it’s not going to foreign landfills?

Contaminated waste is a real problem, and if we can’t find export markets for it, it usually goes straight to the incinerator. In fact, the UK is sadly on the verge of becoming an incinerating nation, rather than a recycling one, as the incineration rates look set to leapfrog their counterpart.


Already, three regions in England are burning more than they recycle. These regions are London, the West Midlands and the North East. At this rate, because of all the extra waste we have (due to China shutting their doors), we are expected to burn more waste than we recycle in less than a year.


The most drastic figure you need to see is that between 2012 and 2017, recycling rates stayed essentially the same, whilst incineration rates rose by 81%.


Incinerators create energy for local communities, but they also create lethargy and repeal the hard work done over the last couple of decades in creating a recycling ethic and resourceful mentality in Britain. Councils will not work as hard to recycle if they have the option of incinerating waste, and that’s a fact. The only case in which incineration should be used is as a last resort, or for contaminated and completely unrecyclable materials.


What we’ve now created is an incinerator industry, with machines that need to be fed, and long term material contracts for councils. The areas in Britain where incinerators have become popular are showing a deep decline in recycling.


What are ClickaSkip doing to help?

We work in the private sector, meaning our contracts, recycling routes and disposal methods are quite different to domestic waste collected by your council. We don’t like using the landfill or incineration, and so we make sure they are our last resort.


The waste collected from you, our valued customers, is handled responsibly, separated, and then recycled into the many routes that we set up with sustainably-focused partners around the world.

Author: Gary Watson
Published: July 31, 2018