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Saving the Oceans and the Plastic Recycling Crisis

Greens “must come clean” about the damage plastic recycling has caused

London, 15 May: The decision by the UN to regulate waste plastic as hazardous will unleash a massive flood of rubbish on many EU countries.

That’s according to Finnish public health expert, Dr Mikko Paunio. The decision, taken late last Friday at the 14th Conference of the Parties to the Basel Convention, means that exports of plastic consumer waste to developing countries will largely come to a halt. 

Dr Paunio explains that much of the exported material ends up in the rivers and oceans of Asia, so he describes the UN decisions as “a major victory for the environment”.

The recycling industry has been opposed to the proposals, while green groups have mostly kept quiet, fearing that the problems caused by large-scale recycling will finally be exposed to wide audience. But as Dr Paunio notes, these problems are likely to hit the headlines anyway.

“In its attempt to address global warming, the EU is demanding 55% recycling of plastic waste. The attempt will be hugely expensive, will release microplastics into the oceans and will fail anyway. Landfill is not an option, and incineration capacity is inadequate. Now that it’s no longer possible to export the problem away, we are going to be hit with a surge of waste that we can’t deal with.”

This will put the recycling industry, green-minded politicians and their supporters in the mainstream media into a difficult position. 

“They are going to have to come clean about the problems caused by recycling and the damage that they have done to the environment”, says Dr Paunio.

Dr Paunio sets out his concerns in a new paper entitled Saving the Oceans and the Plastic Recycling Crisis, which is published today by the Global Warming Policy Foundation.

The Foundation first revealed that climate change policy was an important cause of marine plastic waste in an earlier paper by Dr Paunio, called Save the Oceans: Stop recycling plastic, published last year.

Mikko Paunio: Saving the Oceans and the Plastic Recycling Crisis (pdf)