29 Aug 2008 05:08:53
Exporting waste more carbon efficient than landfill
Sending plastic bottles and paper to China for recycling is less damaging to the environment than putting it in a landfill in the UK, according to a government-funded body.
Research from the Waste & Recycling Action Plan (WRAP) reveals that less carbon dioxide is emitted into the atmosphere by shipping waste 10,000 miles to China, where it will be reused to produce goods than by burying the waste and using new material for replacement products.
As recycling collection outpaces recycling facilities' capacity to process it, sending the material overseas has increased. Domestic recycling is up to 30 per cent now, compared to seven per cent ten years ago.
During that time, the amount of paper and plastic sent to China has increased tenfold.
A total of 4.7 million tonnes of used paper and 0.5 million tonnes of used plastic were exported, with China the recipient of half the paper and 80 per cent of the plastic.
But the WRAP study found that under current conditions, this is the most carbon effective way of dealing with the waste.
Recycling waste is sent to China in containers which would otherwise make the return trip empty because there are more Chinese imports coming to the UK than exports to china.
The emissions involved in shipping the waste were also found to be a third of the emissions that would be released if China created new paper and plastic from scratch.
However, the report still concludes that the evidence "is not sufficient to demonstrate that exporting is a desirable outcome".
Liz Goodwin, WRAP chief executive, said that it would be preferable to recycle the waste in the UK