What to do with ‘plastic waste’ is one of the most talked-about topics of the moment. The problem is that anybody can talk about the problem but few are proposing any realistic solutions. Yet, this is not a new problem that has suddenly sprung up – it has been creeping up on us and central and local government, in the UK, have chosen to ignore the problem rather than deal with it.
Over a decade ago, the IMechE report ‘Energy from Waste: a wasted opportunity’ (2008) stated the following: “Because actual recycling plants in the UK are still few and far between, many recyclables are actually transported for considerable distances within the UK. However, there is a much more serious issue in that huge quantities of some major recyclables (particularly paper and plastics), which have already been classified as ‘recycled’ and counted towards UK and local targets, are being shipped to countries such as China, where we do not know whether they are actually recycled or merely used as cheap fuel.”
Despite this warning, the UK has completely ignored the concerns and has continued to ship ever-increasing quantities, especially of plastics to the Far East for disposal. In 2018 China started to refuse plastic and other low-grade waste from developed countries, leaving the UK with a massive waste problem, as well as a massive ethical problem - we are still claiming that plastic waste has been ‘recycled’ when it has merely been collected and shipped abroad, to become someone else’s problem!
This webinar will focus on the real issues of the problem of plastic: how ‘plastic’ is a cover-all term comprising many dissimilar materials, all of which have radically different ‘recycling’ processes; how ‘non-recyclable’ (which many plastics are) means just that; accounting for energy and emissions costs of current processes.
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The Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) are a professional body licensed by the Society for the Environment to award Chartered Environmentalist (CEnv) status