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Dumping story labelled a ‘myth’

United Kingdom – The UK government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has refuted claims by the ‘Daily Mail’ newspaper that millions of tonnes of the country’s household waste is being shipped overseas to be dumped in landfills. Labelling it a ‘myth’, Defra states that any material that is legally exported for recycling is ‘dealt with properly’ and recycled into other products.On April 6, the ‘Daily Mail’ ran a front-page story with the title ‘The great recycling con trick’ in which it alleged the illegal landfilling of recyclables in countries such as China, India and Indonesia. According to the newspaper, this activity is the direct result of ‘compulsory recycling schemes’ set up in order to meet the requirements of the UK’s Waste Framework Directive.

‘It is absolutely illegal to export household waste from the UK for dumping,’ insists Defra. Saying it has ‘busted the myth’, Defra adds: ‘Anyone caught illegally exporting materials that are not properly sorted will be prosecuted. Only sorted materials such as metals, paper, card, glass or plastic that can be reused again can legally be exported. We are clamping down on people illegally exporting waste and giving enforcement agencies the necessary powers to combat illegal activity. Under international law, importing countries will also refuse entry to illegal shipments of waste.’

Matthew Farrow, director of policy at the Environmental Services Association (ESA), has told ‘The article blurs the distinction between illegal waste exports where material is deliberately mis-described and unfit for purpose, and legitimate export of recyclate which is valued by overseas reprocessors and is a natural part of the global recycling economy. We all want to see illegal exports stopped, but articles like this confuse rather than enlighten the householder.’

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