Green Party cllr says less Hertfordshire waste should go overseas to be processed

Councillor Ben Crystall believes the UK needs to have its own recycling industry

Thursday, 11th November 2021, 2:45 pm
Updated Thursday, 11th November 2021, 3:03 pm

Green Party Cllr Ben Crystall says there should be an end to the global ‘shifting’ of waste – after data shows that 37,000 tonnes of Hertfordshire’s recyclables were shipped overseas last year.

Overall, data for 2020/21 shows that 276,379 tonnes of materials were collected from Herts homes for composting, recycling or reuse in 2020/21.

And that data shows that most of those materials – 85.73 per cent – were recycled in the UK.

The image has been used for illustrative purposes

But a staggering 34,301 tonnes of materials – including cardboard, paper, plastics, tyres and textiles – were sent overseas to be reprocessed last year, mostly to Asia.

Green Party county councillor Ben Crystall has told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that the current practice is “insane”.

He says he believes the UK needs to have its own recycling industry – rather than ‘exporting our problems’.

And that, he says, would cut carbon emissions, as well as bringing financial benefits.

“We are sending our problems to other countries, where vulnerable people end-up having to sort through our rubbish,” he said.

“And we are creating more carbon by sending this stuff a long distance, which makes no sense.

“If we are going to tackle climate change we can’t have global systems that ship stuff from one side of the earth to the other, because it is marginally cheaper for an organisation.

“We should have our own recycling industry here in the UK – and cut our carbon footprint.”

Cllr Crystal suggests that existing markets are ‘skewed’ towards manufacturers – leading to incentives for companies to export their waste.

He says those markets don’t put a true cost on packaging – leaving everyone else to pay for materials then be shifted abroad and recycled.

“There is a financial argument that it could be cheaper to export,” he said.

“But it’s because of the current system that lets business and markets get away with producing this stuff at very low costs.”

In contrast he says recycling within the UK would create jobs and materials.

And he says the current status quo is one of the strongest arguments for ‘a proper carbon tax’ – which could be used to support the growth of a recycling industry in the UK.

In the wake of the latest data, he says he would want to see the county export less of its ‘waste’ abroad – and for the county council to lobby for wider change.

According to the latest data on recycling – which has been collated for inclusion in the Herts Waste Partnership’s annual report – no garden and food waste, glass, wood, cans or scrap metal from the county was sent overseas for reprocessing in 2020/21.

But 34,301 tonnes of recyclable materials were shipped overseas – with 3,340 tonnes sent to Europe, 34,301 tonnes to Asia and 683 tonnes to Africa,

The bulk of that was the 31,380 tonnes of paper and card that was shipped to Asia – with a further 1,537 sent to Europe.

It includes 1,691 tonnes of plastics that were sent to Europe and 2,345 to Asia – as well as 78.62 tonnes of used tyres that was sent to Asia.

In addition, 1,178 tonnes of textiles and footwear were sent overseas, with 494.99 tonnes sent to Asia and 683.39 to Africa.