Buckinghamshire Council is recycling waste in countries as far away as India and Thailand, it can be revealed.

The authority sent mixed plastics to the Netherlands, paper to India, card to Turkey and cans to Thailand last year.

The items were among more than 9,000 tonnes of waste shipped overseas in 2023, according to council data released under the Freedom of Information Act.

A spokesperson for the council said that the majority of the county’s household waste was dealt with in the UK and that recycling has ‘clear benefits’ for the environment – even for rubbish sent overseas.

However, Buckinghamshire councillors have expressed concerns that the council is sending so much waste overseas and called for the authority to process more of it locally.

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“Like many people in Buckinghamshire I am appalled to know that our used newspapers and fizzy drink cans go halfway around the world to be recycled,” Cllr Ed Gemmell told the Bucks Free Press.

The Climate Party leader and parliamentary candidate for Wycombe said that transporting waste as far as Thailand or India means ‘massively increased carbon emissions’.

He added: “This is completely hypocritical and against the principles of the council’s own Climate Change Strategy which intends to ensure Buckinghamshire reaches zero carbon emissions.

“The council should be looking into now to recycle such products locally. If local facilities are not available, then we should look at how to encourage local businesses to set up to provide such facilities in the county which would also bring employment and investment into the local area.”

Green Party Councillor Greg Smith also commented on the revelations, claiming there was a greater need to invest locally and nationally in infrastructure that allows more waste products to be recycled.

He said: “We can’t achieve carbon reduction targets if we are exporting the problem. Far too much recyclable material goes into general waste and is incinerated – releasing high levels of CO2 into the environment.”

The Green parliamentary candidate for Mid Buckinghamshire also called on the council to develop a strategy to reduce the amount of plastic and other recyclable material that goes into bins.

Cllr Smith said: “This means tackling manufacturers and retailers at source, a tax on packaging and a requirement to ‘take back’ the packaging for items bought.”

He added: “I commend the Bucks Free Press for investigating this important area. Climate change is a global issue.

“We can pretend to be meeting targets by exporting the problem and covering up the real extent of recycling.  Your work is a great demonstration of the importance of local news reporting.”

The council said that a total of 37,196.92 tonnes of recycling were collected at the kerbside in 2023.

A total of 34,078.57 tonnes were recycled by the authority over the same period from kerbside collections and other recycled waste from household recycling centres that go to material recovery facilities.

The council said that over 95 per cent of its household waste collected in Buckinghamshire is dealt with in the UK, and 60 per cent, over 130,000 tonnes of waste, is dealt with inside the county.

A spokesperson said: “Once materials have been sorted, recycled materials become commodities in the worldwide market.

“This means that some materials may travel abroad where there are better developed industries for recycling.

“The small percentage of recycling sent outside of the UK is sent to be recycled. It travels by road to Europe and by sea if travelling further afield.

“Often the raw materials are part of a reverse logistics chain, which means they travel on lorries/ships that would otherwise be empty – which makes the transport more efficient.”

The council added that it wants to see a more developed infrastructure in the UK for recycling materials collected from the home.

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