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Wastes: Transport

Volume 461: debated on Monday 4 June 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what percentage of UK recyclable waste was exported to (a) China and (b) other countries by (i) ship and (ii) other forms of transport in the latest year for which figures are available; what tonnage this represented; and what controls or restrictions are placed on the end disposal of exported waste. (138121)

Where non-hazardous waste (such as separated recyclables) are exported, they are generally subject only to commercial controls, not to the prior notification and consent procedures which apply to exports of hazardous waste. They are, therefore, not notified and precise data are not available. However, HM Revenue and Customs’ indicative overseas trade statistics show that, of the waste metal, paper, plastic and glass cullet and their associated scraps exported from the UK in 2006, 19 per cent. was destined for China. The tonnages for China that year were 2,430,618 against a figure for all exports of 12,735,753.

We are unable to provide exact data on the method of transport used to export waste. However, most waste is transported by sea. Until it reaches the UK port, this transport would probably be by road. Upon reaching its port of destination, the method of transport is likely to be road, rail or inland waterway. Air transport is generally uneconomic for wastes, given their low cost and bulky characteristics.

Exports of waste from the UK for disposal are prohibited. However, certain non-hazardous wastes such as paper, glass and plastic can be exported for recovery or recycling, provided the wastes are destined for genuine and environmentally sound recovery operations. This would include the management of any minimal residues from recovery that require disposal. Such disposal would also need to be consistent with environmentally sound management in any country of destination.