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Biffa, one of the UK’s biggest waste companies, has been prosecuted by the Environment Agency of illegally sending banned waste to China. The waste giant broke the law, by shipping household rubbish that was labelled as paper waste.

With tonnes of illegal waste from the UK found in Malaysia already, waste management and environmental issues are becoming more of a priority for the UK economy than in the past.

Biffa faces prosecution

Environment Agency officers conducted investigations and discovered seven 25-tonne containers on the verge of leaving Felixstowe, Suffolk, that contained contaminated materials. This included plastic and glass waste, electric cables, metal pipes, nappies and sanitary towels, instead of paper waste – which can be legally transported.

The export of unsorted household recycling waste from the UK to China has been banned since 2006.

Following a three-week trial, Biffa Waste Services Ltd was found guilty of two breaches. The jury didn’t accept Biffa’s argument that its containers were regularly inspected by Chinese customs agents and that firms buying the waste often examined the containers before they were shipped, to make sure they contained paper waste.

The Environment Agency was able to prevent at least some of the seven containers from leaving Felixstowe.

China’s waste import ban

Just last year, China had announced a ban on imports of foreign rubbish. In order to protect the local environment, China had decided that it was no longer going to allow countries to dump their contaminated waste in their landfills.

Until then, about half of the world’s waste ended up in China, while two-thirds of the UK’s waste was shipped there.

In the effort to tackle the dependence upon their landfill, the Chinese council hopes to implement more environmentally-friendly waste management methods, by decreasing the amount of solid waste that is shipped to the country. China also aims to form an integrated management and a technical system, to be fully operational by 2020, in order to make sure more cities are constructed without waste.

Why is waste still being illegally shipped abroad?

As the UK exported most of its waste to China in the past, we now seem to be stuck with all the waste that cannot be sent elsewhere. One of the reasons why we have been very much affected by the new rulings is that we don’t tend to sort our waste into different categories, such as metal, plastic, glass and paper.

It’s safe to say that we will have to think more carefully about how we deal with our waste, creating effective ways to re-divert the recyclable waste, rather than shipping things straight to China.

How can Skip It help?

Here at Skip It, we are strongly committed to recycling, with 95 per cent of all the waste we collect getting recycled by our network of accredited recycling centres. We are deeply affected by the news about Biffa and, as a rule, we thereby always sort the waste we collect by type.

Help us, by managing your waste responsibly, by using our effective house clearance and business waste collection services!

So, contact our friendly and professional team today, to find out more about our services. Taking the time and effort to sort waste increases the amount we can recycle, making the world a cleaner and greener place.

Pia Subramaniam

5th July 2019

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