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Plastics: Recycling

Question for Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

UIN HL1428, tabled on 25 June 2021

To ask Her Majesty's Government how many plastic recycling facilities there were in England in (1) 2016, (2) 2017, (3) 2018, (4) 2019, (5) 2020, and (6) 2021.

Answered on

9 July 2021

The UK Government has made no assessment of carbon emissions produced by the export of UK waste. The UK monitors and reports emissions from the shipping industry through the National Emissions Inventory but this information is not disaggregated to the level of individual cargo movements.

Between 2017 and 2020 the Environment Agency inspected and prevented the departure of the following containers. The Environment Agency also issued the following stop notices in respect to suspected illegal waste shipments over the same period.




Containers inspected




Containers prevented from leaving




Stop notices issued




The reasons for preventing the departure of these containers included:

  • The proposed recovery site did not exist or was not permitted to accept waste,
  • The proposed shipment was not in compliance with the correct procedure,
  • Issues with waste quality, for example, the level of contamination,
  • The required paperwork was not present, was incomplete or completed incorrectly,
  • The waste was not permitted for export to a non-OECD country

All waste exports need to be made in accordance with the relevant legislation and the UK regulators have a system of inspections in place to verify compliance. The UK regulators take a pro-active, intelligence led approach to checking compliance with the legislation on waste shipments, targeting exports which pose a high risk and intervening to stop illegal exports taking place.

In addition, the regulators undertake rigorous checks to ensure businesses accredited as exporters of packaging waste under the Packaging Waste Regulations comply with their conditions of accreditation, this includes verifying evidence that exported waste is recycled. The conditions of accreditation have been tightened to require an exporter to provide the Environment Agency with full details of the final overseas reprocessing sites receiving packaging waste it exports and to provide access to export documentation to prove that the material reached or was accepted by these overseas reprocessing sites.

Stop notices are issued prior to the export of waste when the Environment Agency suspect a shipment to be illegal (this could be for single containers, or multiple containers). The notice is served on those in control of the waste at the time. There are usually multiple parties involved in the waste shipment process including load sites, brokers, freight forwarders, hauliers, shipping lines etc. Liability for the illegal export of waste is potentially held throughout the waste export chain and therefore only through conducting investigations are the Environment Agency able to determine a definitive number of parties involved.

Plastic recycling is carried out at many waste management sites across England and numerous sites will accept incidental amounts of plastic waste, as such it is not possible to give exact figures for the number of plastic reprocessing facilities in England.

It is possible however, to give the following figures for treatment sites that accepted over 1,000 tonnes of plastic waste per year up to the year 2019. This information has been extracted from data held by the Environment Agency, using European Waste Catalogue codes denoting plastic waste.


No of sites