Britain dumps its plastic garbage in someone else’s backyard

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Landfill site Malaysia containing British waste

Britain cannot go on dumping its plastic garbage in someone else’s backyard. It is not good enough to be out of sight and out of mind. People across the UK sometimes diligently separate out waste in the expectation that the local authority will recycle it. Often this is not so. Investigators for Greenpeace found plastic packaging from several big UK supermarkets in a 10 foot pile of rubbish covering 3 acres next to a palm oil plantation in the Malaysian jungle.

Malaysia landfill - British plastic waste. I understand that this is illegal.
Malaysia landfill – British plastic waste. I understand that this is illegal. Photo: Greenpeace.

People living near this 3 acre site and near recycling plants are complaining that they are kept awake at night because of the fumes and they fear the health effects.

It’s illegal in Britain to export waste which cannot be recycled but plastic packaging can be exported for recycling and indeed receives a subsidy. However, that plastic cannot be stuffed into landfill sites in Asia. It has to be processed in a recycling plant.

Clearly something is going very wrong and it looks to me as if the problem is at the Malaysian end were enforcement of the regulations is inadequate. If that is correct Britain should not send the waste there. There is a moral duty to protect the planet.

Greenpeace found plastics from various countries including Germany, France, Spain, Ireland, Japan and Australia. The use by dates were quite recent.

“These shocking pictures expose just how serious our plastic waste crisis is. Britain can’t carry on dumping its plastic garbage in someone else’s backyard.”

Greenpeace spokesperson
Mr Fearnley-Whittingstall at the dump. Shocking. Photo: BBC/Keo Films/Tom Beard
Mr Fearnley-Whittingstall at the dump. Shocking. Photo: BBC/Keo Films/Tom Beard

Mr Fearnley-Whittingstall, the former chef and now an environmental campaigner said:

“When we put this in our recycling back in the UK, we think we doing the right thing. I do my recycling and I feel good about it. At least I used to. I don’t feel so good now. I feel embarrassed, I feel ashamed, I feel angry, I feel I’ve been lied to.”

Fearnley-Whittingstall

The Environment Agency said that there is a legitimate market for overseas recycling. In other words councils can send their waste abroad, usually to Asia, but it must be for recycling and recovery and it cannot, under any circumstances, be placed into landfill in those foreign countries.

It’s depressing to realise that according to the report in The Times newspaper of May 27, 2019 that the UK exports about twice as much plastic packaging for recycling as it processes domestically. Most of it goes to Asia.

China recently stopped the importation of waste from other countries which is perhaps why in this instance it has ended up in Malaysia, in a jungle next to a palm or plantation where it is causing problems to the local people and to the world.

Note: this information is relevant to the human-animal relationship. Plastic finds its way into the oceans as we well know by now. It is killing marine wildlife and destroying the oceans. Landfill waste leaches chemicals into the ground. These chemicals can find their way into water courses at which point they can poison local wildlife. People cannot go on poisoning the planet and the wildlife which depends upon it.