Celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has discovered mountains of plastic waste from Britain intended for recycling has been shipped 6500 miles to Malaysia then apparently simply dumped or burned.
Up to 20-foot high mounds of plastic waste were uncovered by Hugh and Anita Rani as part of a new BBC documentary investigating where our waste goes and if it is being properly recycled.
Worryingly Hugh found that the plastic waste which as well as having High Street brands, includes local council recycling bags, split or torn, suggesting they were indeed used for their intended purpose by some well-meaning taxpayer.
Hugh, 54, tells the cameras: “It’s like someone dystopian nightmare. A plastic planet.
“When we put this in our recycling back in the UK, we think we’re 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.”
The dump also contains millions of tiny ground up plastic which will spread the pollution hazard far and wide, going into nearby rivers and affect marine life.
And co-host Anita Rani said yesterday: “It’s horrendous to discover this rubbish dumped abroad.
We’re doing our bit putting it in the recycling bin – and then it’s being left to simply become someone else’s responsibility.”
These disturbing scenes will be shown in a three-part BBC documentary co-hosted by Hugh and Countryfile’s Anita Rani from next week.
Greenpeace UK’s senior oceans campaigner Louise Edge said: “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. ‘Out of sight, out of mind’ is not the solution to the problem.”
Councils have spoken at their shock at seeing some of their recycling bags in amongst the piles of plastic.
A Rhondda Cynon Taf council spokesman described the discovery of its bag as “unacceptable” and said they were as “concerned and disappointed as residents will be”.
Braintree Council said an investigation found that the bag spotted by the BBC team was at least four years old, adding: “We are aware that some of the council’s empty used recycling bags have been sent abroad in the past but they were processed through an Environment Agency-accredited and licensed processing facility.
“The material was to become an ‘end-of-waste product’ which specifies no further onward trading as waste, but rather reprocessed, to produce a pellet or flake, and reused as a recyclable material.”
Last year 65,000 tons of plastic waste were exported by the UK. Until 2018 China was the biggest recipient but their government placed a ban on the trade and now Malaysia takes our plastic, and last year was thought to have taken up to 130,000 tons in the last year alone.
- War On Plastic with Hugh And Anita is on BBC1 on June 10 at 9pm.
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