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Government policy must stimulate domestic demand for secondary materials

Environmental Services Association | Environmental Services Association

2 min read Partner content

In the long term, if the UK wishes to reduce its reliance on exports, Government policy in this area must serve to stimulate domestic demand for secondary materials and unlock investment in new infrastructure, says Executive Director of the Environmental Services Association, Jacob Hayler.


Executive Director of the Environmental Services Association, Jacob Hayler, said: “The United Kingdom has a mature, effective, recycling system and householders and businesses alike can be assured that the material they put out for recycling will be recycled as long as it is good quality and not heavily contaminated – despite the often complex and volatile nature of global recycling markets.

Nationally, our recycling has improved dramatically over the last two decades, with household recycling rates growing from around ten per cent in the early 2000’s to roughly forty-five per cent today, but the end markets for much of the material collected for recycling in the UK tend to be close to overseas manufacturing hubs. This has meant that exports, particular to China and South East Asia, have played an important role in the UK achieving its current recycling performance, and South East-Asian markets will no doubt continue to play a role if we are to get to 65 per cent recycling and beyond over the next ten years.

Currently, the UK exports 15 million tonnes of material for re-processing every year and the vast majority of this is put to good use, but the public has rightly grown concerned in recent months following a number of high-profile isolated incidents in which illegal activity has resulted in material being dumped overseas instead of recycled, or managed properly as residual waste.

The ESA and its membership deplores these incidents and is currently working on robust additional new measures to ensure exported recyclable material does not fall into the wrong hands, which we hope to share with the wider industry later this year. These measures will include strengthened reporting and transparency requirements, and the ESA fully supports this principle, but any new legislation in this area must be practicable.

In the long term, if the UK wishes to reduce its reliance on exports, Government policy in this area must serve to stimulate domestic demand for secondary materials and unlock investment in new infrastructure.

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