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Plastics: Imports

Question for Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

UIN 22044, tabled on 24 June 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what recent assessment his Department has made of the potential merits of banning the importing of plastic waste to the UK; and if he will make a statement.

Answered on

29 June 2021

The Government's 25 Year Environment Plan sets out our ambition to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste by 2042. We are making great strides to tackle plastic pollution. In December 2018 we published the Resources and Waste Strategy, which sets out how we want to achieve this and move towards a circular economy. Our approach is focused on increasing supply and demand for secondary materials to be recycled in the UK. We know more needs to be done, and for the most problematic plastics we are going faster - which is why we have committed to work towards all plastic packaging on the market being recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2025.

The UK Government has a manifesto commitment to ban exports of plastic waste to non-OECD countries. The Government has committed to consult on this measure and work to deliver this is underway. Defra has commissioned research to have a better understanding of plastic waste recycling capacity in the UK and OECD member countries, and this research will be key to the development of policy options to implement the manifesto commitment. We currently plan to consult before the end of 2022 on options to deliver the proposed ban.

Legitimate imports of plastic waste into the UK will be destined for recovery operations. The UK Government does not permit the import of plastic waste for disposal. The UK Government has not assessed the benefits of a ban on plastic waste imports and has no plans to do so.

The Environment Bill includes a requirement for the Government to set at least one long-term target on resource efficiency and waste reduction. This target will take a holistic approach to reduce consumption of all materials, including plastics, increasing resource productivity and reducing the volume of waste we generate. Work is already underway to develop these targets. In order to help guide the Government, the Resources and Waste Targets Expert Group has been formed. More information can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/groups/resources-and-waste-targets-expert-group. Moreover, the Government is exploring packaging recycling targets under our proposals for extended producer responsibility for packaging. The consultation on our more detailed proposals closed on the 4 June.

Named day
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