The UK has exported many thousands of tonnes of waste to countries, such as Vietnam and Malaysia, which are not necessarily equipped to recycle or process it properly. As we know, much of it ends up in the sea.
The UK imports thousands of tonnes of goods from abroad and with it comes vast amounts of non-recyclable packaging, including plastics and polystyrene. It is in the interests of at least some non-UK sellers (on Amazon, for example,) to keep their packaging costs as low as possible, and it is not their concern that we are unwilling to pay for the real cost of recycling the mountains of rubbish they send to us. Much of this waste is then sent away to far-off nations whose problem it should not be and where it might not be processed at all. Providing this service to us provides these countries with a quick buck, but the cost to all is vast! It also builds resentment and mistrust of the UK – about to host COP26 in November.
My big idea is to allow goods to be imported to the UK on condition that all the packaging (at least) can be completely recycled within the UK. The technology probably already exists, and if not, our brilliant engineers and scientists are likely to come up with alternatives and improved recycling facilities very quickly.
In the short term, we should at the very least allow consumers to make an informed decision by requiring vendors to list the materials used for packaging. We should be generous in advising poorer nations on how to set up the production of these products.
And we might even consider exporting them ourselves!