Post-Brexit Britain will continue to use the Global South as its dumping ground for unsorted plastic waste, despite the EU banning the practice.
On 1 January 2021, an EU law preventing unsorted and contaminated plastic waste being shipped to non-OECD countries came into force. But the UK, now separated from the EU and its laws, has fallen short of expectations by failing to adopt equally rigorous policies.
Environmental campaigners have accused the UK government of going back on promises made in the 2019 Conservative Party manifesto. The political party, which is currently in power in the UK, said it would push the country to “lead the world in tackling plastics pollution” and “ban the export of plastic waste to non-OECD countries.”
The UK is the world’s second largest exporter of plastic waste, sending around two thirds of it to developing countries. In 2020, the month of September alone saw 6,896 metric tonnes exported from the UK to countries such as Malaysia, Pakistan, Vietnam, and Indonesia, according to the Basel Action Network (BAN).
These countries don’t have the capacity or facilities to properly manage the waste, which means most of it is burned or buried. This has knock-on effects for local communities.
“Our government promised to maintain or exceed EU environmental standards after Brexit,” says Sam Chetan-Welsh, Greenpeace political campaigner. “But creating a loophole to allow the dumping of our plastic trash on environments and communities bodes very badly. This is not leadership, it’s failing to do the bare minimum.”