A councillor has tabled a motion calling for Buckinghamshire Council to recycle its waste in the UK and stop sending it overseas.

Ed Gemmell said: “It is mad for our council to collect our recycling from our doorsteps and then sort it, package it up and send it overseas thousands of miles away, causing huge additional carbon emissions. We don’t even know if it is even being recycled properly or ending up in landfill.”

The Climate Party leader, who is a general election candidate in Wycombe, proposed the motion in response to the revelation earlier this month that the council sent more than 9,000 tonnes of recycling waste abroad in 2023.

The council shipped plastic, paper, card, metal and other rubbish to countries including the Netherlands, France, Spain, India, Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, Turkey and Germany, according to data uncovered under freedom of information laws by the Bucks Free Press.

The council was asked what happened to the waste it sent abroad, including whether any of it was burnt, and whether the fossil fuels expended by shipping rubbish thousands of miles away cancelled out the carbon emissions it had managed to cut back on in other areas.

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A council spokesperson said that the waste sent abroad was recycled and claimed that 95 per cent of household waste collected in Buckinghamshire was dealt with in the UK, while 60 per cent – over 130,000 tonnes – was ‘dealt with’ inside the county.

Cllr Gemmell has called on the council to go further, by recycling all waste in the UK and preferably within Buckinghamshire.

If passed, his motion would commit the council to identify domestic companies or facilities to process waste that is currently being sent abroad.

The council would also have to ensure that all recycled waste from Buckinghamshire will be recycled in the UK within 12 months.

He told the Free Press: “If Buckinghamshire Council makes it clear that its recycling will no longer be going overseas but that it intends to ensure it is processed in the UK and preferably locally then it helps to stimulate the growth of such businesses in the UK and in Buckinghamshire.

“Such local government procurement can drive change and stimulate local economic growth as well as doing the right thing for the environment.

“Bucks Council needs to smell the coffee. Stimulating the net zero and circular economy in the county is great for local jobs and the local economy.”

The council previously said it wanted to see a more developed infrastructure in the UK for recycling materials collected from the home.

A spokesperson said: “However, we have to work with the infrastructure currently in place and that means sometimes sending a small fraction of materials further afield to be recycled.

“The alternative for this small fraction of total waste collected is to send it for incineration locally, which would produce more carbon emissions than recycling – even if it needs to be transported further afield.”

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