A COUNCIL which is working towards becoming one of the country’s most environmentally-friendly is exporting residents’ plastic recycling to the country with the highest plastic pollution in the Mediterranean.

Hambleton District Council’s scrutiny committee heard 78 per cent of plastic bags collected in the area – about seven tonnes a year – are sent to Turkey, which a WWF study this summer found had 31.3kg of plastic debris per kilometre on its coastline.

Members heard tonnes of recycled plastic bottles collected from residents were also sent abroad, to Slovakia, Germany and the Netherlands as were a significant proportion of the recycled metal cans, paper and cardboard. Overall, 17 per cent of recycled waste from the district is sent abroad by UPM, the firm the council sends its recycling to.

Hambleton council officers told the meeting the proportion of waste being sent abroad was relatively low compared to other local authorities and with 48.4 per cent of all rubbish recycled last year, the district had been ranked 100th for recycling out of 345 local authorities.

After hearing about various green initiatives the committee’s chairman, Councillor David Hugill, said he was satisfied with the authority’s efforts to increase recycling and praised the enthusiasm of officers. He said: “If the recycling was just being stacked up in a car park somewhere I would have an issue with that, but we are led to believe it is going to these countries because they can re-use it to change into something else, and that’s what recycling is all about.”

While the government has supported measures to cut plastic usage, environmentalists claim much of the rubbish in oceans comes from countries with less effective waste systems.

A Greenpeace UK spokeswoman said: “Sweeping our waste under someone else’s carpet is not the solution to Britain’s plastic problem. Instead of just moving our plastic scrap around the globe, we should turn off the tap at the source.”

The meeting was told the authority was working to educate residents about recycling as the amount of contaminated waste continued to be an issue. Councillors heard cardboard pizza boxes should not be recycled because of the amount of grease left on them.

  • Dr Justin Ives, Chief Executive of Hambleton District Council, said: "We have a duty of care to ensure that the end reprocessors of our recycled material act responsibly. As such we work with our contractors and partners to understand the end destinations for all our materials and to ensure that as much material as possible is recycled in the UK and European markets."