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UK’s multi-billion boost from recyclate exports

United Kingdom – The value of exported recyclate makes a direct net positive contribution to the UK’s trade balance of £3.9 billion (US$ 6 billion), says a new report from the nation’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

In 2013, the UK exported 13 million tonnes of key recovered materials – including metals, paper, plastics and textiles – worth £4.35 billion (US$ 6.6 billion). ‘This accounted for 8% by weight of all UK exports of goods, supporting economic activity in the shipping and ports sector and providing a source of revenue for vessels that might otherwise be leaving the UK empty,’ DEFRA states in the report.

The UK recovers 7.9 million tonnes of the paper for recycling that it consumes in a year but manufactures only 4.6 million tonnes of paper annually, making export markets important in absorbing the recovered materials it does not use at home, DEFRA points out. The report also states that ‘over the past decade the value we extract from managing our waste resource has increased significantly’.

The gross value added per tonne of waste managed by the sector climbed from £32 in 2004 to £43 in 2012 after inflation, representing a 33% increase in real terms over the eight-year period. ‘In 2012, the value of UK household dry recovered material is estimated to have been worth up to £0.5 billion (US$ 0.75 billion),’ DEFRA points out.

Meanwhile, some £447.4 million (US$ 680 million) of electricity – or 9005 GWh – was generated from waste in 2013. ‘Even the most conservative estimates suggest that the potential of remanufacturing in the UK is £5.6 billion (US$ 8.5 billion),’ the report also notes.


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