The truth behind China’s plastic ban – How recycling in the UK will really be affected

If you’ve heard about China’s Plastic Ban, you’re probably wondering how it will affect plastic recycling the UK…

Dispelling the myths 

The news that China will no longer be taking the UK’s plastic waste has triggered questioning over our domestic recycling processes and the negative media coverage has left UK residents worrying that the plastic they recycle won’t actually be reprocessed. But, a closer look into what is happening on the ground in the UK recycling industry shows positive developments as a result of the ban on exporting plastic to China coming into action this January (2018). 

New momentum 

While the ban has been portrayed as a blow to the UK by the media, it has actually been branded as “good news” by many in the industry because it has forced a rethink of the UK’s current mixed recycling system. The increased demand for domestic plastic reprocessing services has led to more plans to open recycling plants opening in the UK. Last month, waste management firm Panda, announced it will open a recycling facility for waste plastic films in the UK. The plant will process 10-15,000 tonnes of plastic film a year, to be sold back to supermarkets. What’s more, for some UK-based plastic re-processors, the increased pressure from the government on producers has led to an increased demand for their services. One UK-based HDPE plastic recycler said: “In all honesty we haven’t seen any drop in the use of plastics. If anything, particularly for recycled plastic, demand is growing. The press around plastic has done nothing other than stimulate lots of activity for us.”

New markets 

Many experts in the industry are also seeing the Chinese plastic import ban as positive because it has resulted in new markets opening up, and “a larger pool to choose from”. New markets that are taking plastic for reprocessing are in Eastern Europe and south east Asian countries such as Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia. The result of these new markets has been an actual increase in the amount of plastic exported for reprocessing. Figures show that 28,354 tonnes of plastic waste were accepted or exported in January 2018, which is an increase on the amount exported for the same period last year.

How much did we send to China in the first place? 

Many local authorities have not been affected by the ban, as they have never exported any plastic waste to China in the first place. In January, the North London Waste Authority released details of the plastic waste they process and how it is reprocessed. Figures from their 2016/17 collections show that only 13% of household waste they collect is plastic, which amounted to nearly 75,000 tonnes. Of that collected plastic, almost 100% was sent to UK re-processors.

What does this mean for me?

So the good news is – there is plenty of reason to keep recycling plastics and you should see no changes to how you normally recycle. Make sure you’re up to date with the latest guidance on what and cannot be recycled in your area by checking with your Local Council or the Recycle Now website, Plastics are processed differently by different councils, so always make sure to check before you chuck! 

Our solutions

Request a 15-minute demo

Find out how Jump can boost engagement within your organisation.

Bethany Fruen

Head of Communications

Bethany Fruen

Since joining Jump fresh out of university back in 2013 I’ve seen many changes in the way we communicate – both as a company and more widely within the sustainability industry. The current shift of sustainability to the mainstream is accelerating at a pace and it’s exciting to be part of this step change.  The insight I get from individual participants in our client programmes is invaluable as it helps me figure out the best way to get our messages across.

My team and I use digital communications to recognise individual and team success, providing information in a fun, meaningful way that encourages people to take action. It’s about creating a feedback loop where people see that their actions are having an impact and this is very powerful in creating positive change within an organisation.


Lawrence Mitchell

Change Management

Lawrence Mitchell

I am Chief Customer Officer of SumoSalad, former Chief Marketing Officer at RELX: Risk & Analytics and Founder of RAW Energy. Having worked in publishing for 20 years, living through the first phases of the digital revolution, I’m used to disruption, uncertainty and transformation. But through all of this, my belief in putting the customer at the heart of an organisation by leveraging data analytics has helped multiple brands innovate, evolve and transform. 

I’m a huge advocate for promoting wellness in the workplace which is central to our Jump mission, and created the award-winning RBI Living Well programme. Through my RAW Energy platform, I support business and community leaders to be more resilient, more authentic and more focused on wellbeing.  A regular contributor to marketing, customer experience and wellness forums, I’ve written three books including Success without Stress: How to Prevent Burnout and Build Resilience for Optimal Health & Performance. 

Mark Lance

Finance & Company Secretary

Mark Lance

I helped Graham set up Jump in 2011 and it’s great to be involved in such a dynamic, growing business where I can apply my specialism in corporate compliance to ensure we are meeting our statutory and financial obligations.  I am an associate of the Association of International Accountants (for whom I also act as a quality advisor) and a fellow of the Institute of Chartered Secretaries & Administrators. 

Alongside Jump, I’m a director of Cornhill Group, a corporate service business in London advising the boards of businesses in a wide variety of sectors including shipping, energy, media and aviation, and I’m also a director of a global energy trader. 

Rob Metcalfe

PR & Marketing

Rob Metcalfe

Alongside Jump, I’ve been helping clients get their message across for over 30 years,
most recently as chief executive of Richmond & Towers, the longest
established public relations consultancy in the UK.  A Chartered Marketer,
I’m increasingly helping clients frame their message around sustainability,
particularly in food, waste and energy. The Guardian once described me as being
the “evil genius who got us all hooked on avocados”, a claim I don’t deny.

Since helping Graham get Jump set up in 2011 I’ve enjoyed communicating about a
subject where there is a great willingness among companies and individuals to
do the right thing,  but understanding what practical action to take isn’t
always obvious. 

Graham Simmonds

Chief Executive

Graham Simmonds

As CEO of Jump I lead a talented team of professionals committed to sustainability and wellness.  For much of my 35 year career I’ve been immersed in environmental issues, particularly how to engage people in practical action.  Previously I built Trees for Cities from start-up to a global, award-winning charity as its founding chief executive, and I loved developing new initiatives such as The Edible Playground and the Million Trees Campaign.  

In 2011 I set up Jump as I felt organisations large and small want to motivate action amongst their people around wellbeing and the planet, and a professional team dedicated to this purpose would help them accelerate their journey.  I’m also proud to chair the Reward Gateway Foundation which supports organisations and projects that address inequality and disadvantage, with the ultimate mission of making the world a better, fairer, safer and more equal place to work.