In the past few years, the UK exported considerable amounts of wastes to other European countries. In fact, as Jacob Hayler, Executive Director at Environmental Services Association notes on the UK in a Changing Europe’s website, the country sends 3.5 million tonnes across the channel yearly.
There, the wastes gain a new life; they are processed to produce fuel for heat and electricity in special Energy-from-Waste (EfW) power plants.
A hard Brexit, however, might restrict the country’s ability to export its waste. These circumstances could be detrimental, as the country is already running out of space to contain its refuse.
A Strong Reliance on Landfills
The UK in a Changing World states that the country has always relied heavily on landfills for waste disposal. Its extractive industries and natural geology allow for a strong landfill sector, after all.
Over the years, however, people discovered the harmful effects of landfills, like greenhouse gas emissions. So, experts looked for more sustainable treatments, like the EfW plants in continental Europe. While the UK has its own EfW facilities, it still pays around £400 million to Dutch, German and Scandinavian plants which process much of the waste that its facilities couldn’t handle and which would have otherwise ended up in landfills.
A Lack of Landfills and Insufficient EfWs
If a hard Brexit limits waste exports, experts worry that domestic landfills and EfW facilities may not be enough to handle all of the country’s wastes.
This is in part because the amount of available landfill space has fallen considerably. The Guardian reports that the waste management industry no longer invests in new landfills because they’re not a sustainable waste solution. In fact, experts say that active landfills would dwindle down from thousands in the 1990s to about 50 by 2020.
Furthermore, the country is not establishing alternative treatment facilities fast enough to offset the decline of landfills. In fact, the UK in a Changing World reports that the UK will still be short by about 6 million tonnes of waste treatment capacity by 2030.
If this happens, the southeast areas of the country would be far more affected. Though they have much less waste capacity than the northern parts, they are the largest regional waste exporters. If people let things be, then authorities would experience “landfill tourism,” where people would need to transport rubbish across the country to treat them properly.
The Chinese Ban on Waste Exports
To make matters worse, China banned imports on millions of tonnes of waste, including polyethylene terephthalate (Pet) drinks bottles and mixed paper rubbish.
This move could increase the risk of environmental pollution in the UK, as British companies export millions of tonnes of waste to Asia. In fact, it sent about 2.7 million tonnes to China and Hong Kong in 2012 alone.
The pressure is rising, therefore, to support the UK recycling industry and meet the challenges created by a possible hard Brexit and the Chinese ban.
How Can You Help?
With a looming waste problem, it is imperative that businesses join the recycling movement. In this endeavour, authorities are already seeing progress: the London Waste and Recycling Board, for instance, records that the capital’s recycling rate rose by 1 per cent from 2016 to 2017.
If you’re looking for an efficient company to take care of your business’s recyclables, then look no further than LKM Recycling. We’re a trusted expert in total, responsible waste management, with a zero to landfill policy, offering plastic, metal, wood and waste paper recycling. We also provide confidential shredding, skip hire and scrap car services.
Take a step towards preserving the environment. Talk to our experts today.