Greenpeace has been responsible for many a fatuous stunt over the years, but its latest video has a point. It shows an animated Boris Johnson making a speech outside 10 Downing Street, boasting about his government’s environmental achievements, like banning plastic straws. Meanwhile, plastic waste starts to rain out of the sky, engulfing the Prime Minister as well as all of Downing Street, the Cabinet Office and much of the Foreign Office, too. This immense pile, we are told, is the quantity of plastic waste which we are dumping daily on developing countries.
I’ll take Greenpeace’s word for it that the size of the pile is accurate. But whether our daily waste exports really would cover such a volume, it is indeed a scandal that waste collected for ‘recycling’ in Britain ends up being exported to countries which have an extremely poor record of dealing with plastic waste. This has been known about for years.
In 2017, a report by the charity Ocean Conservancy concluded that most of the plastic rubbish circulating around the world’s oceans derived from just five Asian countries: China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.
At the time, Indonesia and China were among the countries receiving large quantities of waste from Britain – waste which was supposedly being recycled, but in some cases had been found being burned at the roadside.
China later banned imports of waste from Britain, but now Greenpeace claims to have found evidence of the same happening in Turkey, a new favourite destination for UK waste. Greenpeace has produced evidence of waste being burned there, too, on open fires.
Yet Greenpeace is in part responsible for the problem, because for years it has opposed the building of energy-from-waste plants – or incinerators, as they are otherwise known.