A study (PDF) published by Government-funded organization WRAP reveals that exporting recovered plastic bottles and paper to China produces less carbon emissions than landfilling them in the U.K. and replacing them with virgin materials., letsrecycle.com reports.
The study finds that the transportation of the goods accounts for under a third of the carbon savings created by recycling with further savings if reverse haulage is noted. Due to a trade imbalance between the U.K. and China, most of the containers return to China are empty.
Britain currently exports 4.7 million tons of recovered paper and 500,000 tons of plastic to China. According to WRAP this is because China has an increasing demand for plastic bottles while the U.K. did not have the capacity to reprocess them.
Between about 154 kg and 213 kg of CO2 is produced per ton of recycled paper transported, while one ton of recovered plastic bottles emits between 158kg and 230 kg.
Despite the findings, WRAP says the study did not show exporting materials was necessarily the most desirable option, citing the option to recycle domestically.
In July, political and business leaders in Britain warned that the country may face a sharp rise in its tax bill to fund the country’s move to a low carbon economy.