Fraud and Crime in the European Recycling Industry?

The plastics recycling industry is being investigated for one of the largest environmental fraud. 

100 containers of plastic waste are supposedly being shipped out every day from the UK for recycling, but it’s not happening.

Plastic waste exporters charge retailers and manufacturers a fee (between £60-70 a tonne) to recycle plastic waste but UK’s National Audit Office criticised this system as being open to fraud. The Environment Agency (EA) has set up a team of investigators, including police officers to tackle this huge fraud.

The National Audit office said:

“The financial incentive for companies to fraudulently claim they have recycled plastic packaging is higher than for any other material. There is therefore a risk that some of it is not recycled under equivalent standards to the UK and is instead sent to landfill or contributes to pollution.”

Here’s a summary of the frauds and problems:

  • EA staff have never visited any the sites where UK waste is exported for recycling.
  • Plastic waste intended for recycling is sent to countries that will not recycle the waste.
  • Huge discrepancies between the official exported quantity and what is really exported. Exporters are falsely claiming tens of thousands of tonnes of plastic waste which might not exist at all.
  • Plastic waste exporters have their licences suspended.
  • Containers are being stopped due to waste contamination.
  • Plastic waste intended for recycling are dumped in rivers and oceans, or incinerated.
  • Illegal shipments of plastic waste are being routed to the Far East via the Netherlands.
  • Fraudulent firms are involved in the export.
  • Probable corruption and links to criminal organisation …

Jacob Hayler, executive director of the Environmental Services Association (ESA) said:

“We have flagged this and they are aware of it,” he said. ‘The agency and others are looking at how to improve enforcement … there is organised crime, and criminal gangs exploit the system, that does go on.”

UK and European plastic waste used to be exported to China, but since January China stopped importing plastic waste.

UK and European plastic waste export shifted to Malaysia, Vietnam and Poland.  Malaysia and Vietnam have imposed temporary bans on imports and Poland is considering restrictions.

UK plastic waste is now being exported to Turkey and the Netherlands. The Netherlands are suspected of laundering plastic waste: sending it to Far East countries that may not recycle the plastic; while Turkey is suspected to incinerate the plastic waste.

Addie van der Spapen, of Netherlands recycling firm Kunststof Recycling said

“It won’t all get recycled. Europe is getting overflowed with the material from England, they are flooding Europe with their plastic.”


%d bloggers like this: