China’s recent ban on importing plastic waste means UK businesses and the government is under pressure to rethink their plastic waste strategy.
Moving to a new type of packaging that is easier to recycle, re-using plastic waste in construction projects, and new regulations to reduce the amount of plastic waste are all now being considered.
There are a lot of success stories from Japan, Rwanda and Colombia, that the UK can learn from.
The UK has shipped more than 2.7m tonnes of plastic waste to China and Hong Kong since 2012, which is two-thirds of the UK’s total waste plastic exports, according to Greenpeace.
With 26 percent of all plastic used in the UK ending up in the landfill people and businesses need to work on making the landfill plastic-free.
The UK government need to support the recycling industry and encourage consumers to recycle more thus helping in reducing plastic pollution. In 2015, only 500,000 tonnes was recycled out of 1.5m tonnes of recyclable plastic waste used by consumers in Britain
Cutting down the amount of plastic waste will not be successful unless big businesses cooperate and take a big step in investing money and resources in developing new green packaging technologies.
Recycled plastic can be used in many effective ways such as building bridges, houses and furniture.
In Colombia, a company called Conceptos Plasticos managed to use plastic waste in building houses in 2016 for only $5,200 per house.
The fireproof and earthquake-resistant houses are made of shredded plastics that are compacted into lego-like bricks. According to the manufacturer, using recycled plastics can help in offering decent shelters to homeless people and reducing pollution.
The company helped about 42 homeless families by building a hostel for them in 2015.
Japan used 83% of its plastic waste in 2015, up from 77 percent in 2010 and 69 percent in 2006, according to the Japan plastic waste management institute.
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government promotes a 3R strategy of reducing, reusing and recycling resources. To achieve this, the government invited private businesses to build waste treatment and recycling facilities.
While in Kenya, the government banned using plastic bags and individuals who produce, sell or even use plastic bags risk imprisonment of up to four years or a fine of $40,000 – aiming at reducing plastic pollution especially in the ocean.
It should be possible for the UK to solve the recycling challenge after China’s ban by using the right waste processing technologies and applying stricter recycling regulations.
The ban was announced in July 2017and came into force on 1 January 2018. It is on importing 24 types of solid waste, such as plastic waste, unsorted paper, crude textile and vanadium slag waste.
This ban aims at cutting down China’s garbage imports and replacing them with waste from domestic resources.