Environment

Piles of plastic dumped at Downing Street in campaign against plastic exports

The UK sends the equivalent of three and a half Olympic swimming pools in plastic abroad every day. Greenpeace sent a lorry full of plastic waste collected from beaches to Downing Street

Campaigners have dumped 625 kilograms of plastic on the prime minister’s doorstep in a stunt to stop the UK exporting its plastic waste to be burned or sit in landfill in other countries.

The plastic left at the Downing Street gates on Tuesday is equivalent to the amount the UK exports every 30 seconds, Greenpeace said, nearly 40 per cent of which goes to Turkey. Every day the UK sends the equivalent of three and a half Olympic swimming pools in plastic abroad.

“Our carefully washed and sorted plastic is sent overseas, the majority to countries with very low recycling rates, where it is being dumped and burned,” said Nina Schrank, senior plastics campaigner at Greenpeace UK. 

Greenpeace dumps 625kg of plastic waste at the Prime Minister’s gate
Greenpeace activists dump 625kg of plastic waste at the Prime Minister’s gate, the same volume that the UK exports every 30 seconds, calling for a ban on plastic waste exports. A figure of the Prime Minister with a costume headpiece was also at the scene where a tipper truck reading ‘Stop plastic exports’ offloaded the plastic.

“It is illegal for the UK government to export our waste if it isn’t being recycled or incinerated. This is causing an environmental crisis and a health crisis for local people. It has to stop,” she added.

“We hope this pile of plastic helps the government to not only visualise the huge volume of plastic waste we export, but also to understand what it feels like to have waste dumped on your doorstep.”

A recent Greenpeace investigation showed plastic supermarket packaging from the UK dumped and partly burned in the open air in Turkey, three thousand kilometres from where the products were bought.

The shocking pictures pushed the Turkish government to announce new restrictions on certain types of plastic being imported into the country, but reportedly U-turned on the decision this weekend, sparking fears it will trigger an increase in plastics arriving from other countries. 

The plastic delivered to Downing Street was collected from beaches by Greenpeace volunteers.

The campaigners called for a complete ban on all plastic waste exports as well as legislation to force big companies to cut the amount of plastic they produce in the first place.

“So far the Prime Minister is only promising to ban exports to some countries, but there can be no exceptions,” said Megan Randles, political campaigner at Greenpeace UK. “Today’s installation at Westminster is a message to the government that it’s time to act without delay.”

A quarter of a million people have signed a petition demanding ministers stop making plastic the UK’s waste a problem for other countries.

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