Tonnes of Our Carefully Collected Plastic Recycling is Burned or Buried in Vietnam

By Gary Cutlack on at

That yogurt pot you carefully scrutinised to see if it was recyclable or not? Could well be on fire in Vietnam right now, or being rolled into the ground in a landfill in Malaysia, because we don't have the capacity to recycle all of our plastic waste; so much of it is dumped overseas instead where... corners may be cut.

Greenpeace says the UK's exports of containers full of difficult recyclables are shipped off to places as diverse as —  which took 11,899 tonnes of our rubbish in the first four months of 2018 — and Vietnam, which took 14,570 tonnes of plastic rubbish in the same period, up by 51 per cent on the previous year. 51,549 tonnes went to Malaysia and 6,810 tonnes to Thailand. At least it shows we are recycling, even if it all just ends up mechanically stamped into a different part of the ground.

The international shuffling around of plastic waste was triggered by China, which banned the importation of rubbish from the likes of us in January, as, incredibly, it's cheaper for our waste disposers to bundle it up and send it halfway around the world than recycle it here, plus we don't have the capacity in the UK to recycle more than around a quarter of the plastic we faithfully rinse out and bag up anyway. [Greenpeace via The Times]