Waste Management

22.10.18

China ban adds £500,000 in recycling contamination costs to councils

Tighter recycling contamination restrictions in the wake of China’s imported waste ban have directly hit at least a fifth of councils, the LGA has revealed.

China’s restrictions on imports of mixed paper and certain types of plastic has resulted in the worst effected councils see their costs for sorting recycling increased by an average of £500,000 over the last year.

Cllr Martin Tett, LGA’s environment spokesman, said: “It’s clear that the ban by China on imported waste, which could soon be implemented from other countries, could have a marked impact on councils’ ability to recycle.

“It’s essential that the government provide support to help councils offset the loss of income they face as a result of the ban and encourage manufacturers to use more recyclable materials.”

The report is line with a previous LGA report which warned that China’s import bans would “cost councils millions.”

The LGA said that it was told in a report to its economy and environment board that one of a sample of councils had responded by saying that additional sorting to reduce contamination would cost an extra £500,000 a year, and another said that low paper prices would see it lose £5m a year.

The report, published in May, said that paper, card and plastic comprised of 46% dry recycling collected by councils. Since China’s restrictions took effect, the average price of mixed paper had fallen from £93 to £10 per tonne.

The costs were partly due to increased costs for processing materials for recycling. The fee paid by councils to process materials at material recovery facilities increased from £15 to £22 per tonne, according to the new report.

The LGA has urged the government to address the long-term impact of the China ban in its forthcoming Resources and Waste Strategy.

Tett said: “Councils are doing all they can to improve recycling rates, which is why 100% of councils collect paper for recycling, and 99% collect plastic bottles.

“The rising costs caused by this ban risk combining with ongoing and severe council funding pressures to affect other essential local services.”

He also said that councils want manufacturers to “play their part in the battle against unnecessary and recyclable waste” and contribute more towards the costs local authorities pay to process recycling.

He said: “It is essential that the government take the opportunities of the upcoming Autumn Budget and publication of its Resources and Waste Strategy to assess the financial impact of these bans on councils thoroughly, and encourage manufacturers to take up more of the responsibility for dealing with these unrecyclable materials.”

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Image credit - VM

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