In an effort to avoid massive fines if it fails to reduce the mounting contents of its landfills and since recycling rates continue to be low, the UK is to export fuel pellets made from household rubbish of hundreds of thousands of bins to countries such as Holland and Germany.
The UK’s Environment Agency has recently allowed the first 40,000-ton shipment by Waste firm Shanks under the terms of a 25-year contract of £47 million signed with the East London Waste Authority to dispose of waste.
Officials explain that this is a cost-effective way to get rid of waste rather than paying landfill tax. Some critics claim that the taxpayer will lose out as councils will have to continue paying landfill tax in addition to footing the bill for waste to be exported. However, the government intends to progressively reduce the landfill tax.
Officially it is illegal to export waste to other countries for dumping. Environmentalists argue that fuel made from waste, known as "refuse-derived fuel" (RDF), which is collected from the black bin bags around East London and includes paper and plastic, could have been recycled instead of being exported, for example, to power Amsterdam's district heating network, or to China for recycling.
The NGO Friends of the Earth sustains that shipping rubbish to another country for burning in incinerators is not only a waste of money, but is also fueling climate change as its burning and transportation increases greenhouse gases.
Last year Marco Trade News reported several episodes of waste from industrial processes like wood chips being illegally sent abroad for burning and even hazardous waste turning up in other countries.