Is Our Plastic Waste Really Recycled?

Every week, we carefully take time to sort out our household waste and put it in the recycling bins. We believe we’re doing our bit for the environment and we don’t give it another thought after it is taken away. We trust that it is going to be recycled.

After a recent investigation performed by Greenpeace, it was discovered that over half of our plastic waste is being shipped to countries like Turkey to be disposed of. Rather than being recycled, it is often dumped or burned on the roadside. Some of it even ends up in waterways and floats into the ocean. This has a very harmful effect on wildlife, sea life and people. Locals have reported serious health issues and haven’t been able to breathe properly due to intoxicating fumes.

The UK produces more plastic waste per person than any other country in the world. The UK government dumps 625kg of plastic in other countries every 30 seconds. In 2020, the UK exported 688,000 tonnes of plastic, whilst it only recycled 486,000. UK and EU rules state that plastic shipped to other countries should be recycled. However, Turkey only recycles 12% of it. During Greenpeace’s investigation, they found plastic packaging from well-known supermarkets like Sainsbury’s and Tesco strewn across the roadside and in rivers. Our plastic waste also goes to Malaysia and Poland, amongst other countries.

The UK government claims to be a world leader in tackling plastic but they seem to be showing a lack of concern and are fuelling the crisis. They are exploiting poorer nations and are not ensuring that our plastic waste is being recycled once it leaves our shores. To highlight this hypocrisy, Greenpeace dumped 625kg of plastic outside Downing Street recently. It did this to demonstrate how appalling it is to have plastic waste dumped on your doorstep – something which poor overseas communities have to endure.

In today’s society, recycling is a part of our daily lives. It is something that we are encouraged to do and want to do. Learning that our plastic waste isn’t being recycled after it leaves our homes is disheartening and an important issue that needs to be tackled. Currently, Greenpeace is attempting to get all plastic waste exports banned and for the government to reduce single-use plastics by 50% by 2025.

If you would like to have a say in this, you can sign Greenpeace’s petition.