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Plastic waste exported for recycling from England have increased by more than 10%

RECOUP said year-on-year, despite increases in material being recycled in the UK, quantities of plastic waste exported for recycling from England have increased by more than 10% to just over 600,000 tonnes. Of this, more than 25% was sent to Turkey, 25,000 tonnes more than in 2022. This also means that just short of 1 million tonnes of plastic has been sent to Turkey for recycling since 2017. The next largest destination, Germany, received just under 10%, whilst material sent to Asia, overall, increased from around 9% in 2022, to almost 20% in 2023. Malaysia and Vietnam, two non-OECD countries that had received decreasing volumes of UK waste in recent years, took around 8% each. Indonesia took a further 3.4%, and Taiwan 2.5%.

More than 26% was sent to non-OECD or developing countries. This is significantly more than the 16% in 2022, and 6% in 2021, when overall quantities were also lower, resulting in an increase of 500% in three years. This amounts to 155,000 tonnes sent to non-OECD countries, 15,000 of which was to European Union (EU) Member States Bulgaria and Romania, and the remaining sent to a combination of countries in non-EU Europe, Asia and Egypt.

RECOUP warned that to help address these issues, the UK requires development of its recycling infrastructure, as well as its policies, to limit the need for exporting of material in the first place, regardless of where to.

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