Bury plastic in landfill until science progresses

Plastic waste should be stored in landfill sites until it can be mined, according to the government’s chief environment scientist.

Ian Boyd said that landfill could be a better solution than incineration for waste because it could be dug out a later date and turned back into a useful product. He was speaking as it emerged that the recycling industry is exploring the idea of storing plastic in landfill sites to cope with the impact of China’s recent ban on most waste imports.

Bales of used plastic bottles and other waste are being stockpiled around the country because they can no longer be sent to China, which took 55 per cent of the waste plastic exported by the UK in 2016. Some companies are considering incinerating the waste because otherwise they may run out of storage space.

Professor Boyd told the Commons environment, food and rural affairs committee that incineration caused carbon dioxide emissions. “If there is one way of extinguishing the value in materials fast, it’s to stick it in an incinerator and burn it. We could be storing them until we have the innovative technologies to re-use and turn them into something more positively valued.”

Ray Georgeson, head of the Resource Association, which represents recycling companies, said that “dry storage in landfill of washed plastics” could be the best short-term solution for plastic waste. He said the government should consider exempting plastic from the £86 a tonne landfill tax.

Analysis by the Green Party shows that if present trends continue, by April next year the UK would be incinerating more waste than it recycled.

Sign-up to the ReCircle newsletter!