The Recycling Association expresses anger at the chief executive of the Environment Agency (EA), Sir James Bevan after he said he stands by his previous call for a ban on waste exports.
Resending to Bevan’s comments, The Recycling Association chief executive Simon Ellin, said: “Perhaps we are fortunate that Sir James is stepping down from his role at the end of this month, as this isn’t the first time he has overstepped the mark as a civil servant by giving his inaccurate personal opinion.”
Speaking at the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee in Parliament, Bevan said that “sending certain wastes abroad is legal, but not right” and that his “personal view” is he would stop all exports of all forms of waste from the UK.
Bevan told the committee that: “I can only speak for myself, not for the EA and certainly not for the Government, but I stand by what I said. Sending certain kinds of waste abroad is legal, but I am not convinced that it is right.
Perhaps we are fortunate that Sir James is stepping down from his role at the end of this month, as this isn’t the first time he has overstepped the mark.
“Why do I say that? First, I do not think it is sustainable as a business model, because more and more countries are refusing to take waste from the UK. Secondly, when we see illegal exports of waste, that is causing environmental damage to other countries and I do not think that is right.”
Bevan also highlighted that the government have said in its resources and waste strategy that the aim should be to process more of our waste at home. The EA chief continued that the UK should set an objective to process all of its waste domestically.
In response, Ellin said: “As part of a global circular economy, we need to send materials back to where they were manufactured in the first place to be turned into new products. We’ve got to stop treating them as a waste, but recognise they are a commodity. Why should these commodities be banned from export? Should we also ban imports of these commodities when needed by our industries?”
“Often exports go to recycling facilities that are as good as, or sometimes better, than the ones we have in the UK, whether that is in Europe, Turkey, India, or South East Asia. These countries often have their own tough import restrictions and inspection regimes, and legitimate exporters work very hard to meet those.”
Ellin said a ban on waste exports goes against the “principles of free trade” and will lead to a UK market that “lacks competition” and inefficiencies. He also said a ban will lead to more UK material going to landfill and energy from waste, which is lower down the waste hierarchy.
As part of a global circular economy, we need to send materials back to where they were manufactured in the first place to be turned into new products.
Ellin also took exception to Bevan’s comments that the law is “pretty clear” on what can be lawfully exported and under what conditions. Bevan went on to say that in the EA’s experience when the organisation catches illegal exports, it isn’t a case of someone misunderstanding the guidance, it’s a deliberate attempt to evade the law and profit.
Ellin described these statements as “nonsense” before he said: “I don’t understand the regulations as it isn’t clear, top lawyers have told us the law doesn’t specify the conditions, and as an industry, we have kept pushing for a clear picture over many years.”
As a solution, Ellin said the introduction of waste tracking, highlighting digital solutions such as the Traqa system, will help provide evidence to show the UK is sending legitimate exports of material to state-of-the-art facilities abroad.
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