Our response to the War on Plastic documentary

Friday 7 June 2019


A three-part BBC documentary looking at the UK’s use of plastics begins on 10 June, and we’ve been told by the programme makers that during research in Malaysia they found approximately 50 Milton Keynes Council pink recycling sacks in a giant area of dumped plastics. 

We do not export waste to Malaysia, and we’re appalled to see this misuse of our recycling sacks.  The way much UK plastic waste is treated is shocking and alternatives must be found fast.

Milton Keynes has a history of leading the way with recycling schemes.  We were the first UK area to introduce kerbside recycling collections (1992) and the first to open a purpose-built recycling facility (1993).

We only work with reputable suppliers who have a clear picture of where recyclable material goes, right throughout the supply chain, and our suppliers have reconfirmed to us that our recyclable materials are dealt with properly.

All household material collected for recycling in MK is taken to our Materials Recycling Facility in Wolverton where the sacks are ripped open and the contents sorted by type. 

The sacks themselves and most other plastic items are processed in the UK where they’re turned into pellets or small fragments suitable to be manufactured into new plastic goods. 

A small amount of specific plastics are currently traded to Taiwan so that they can follow the same process into new items.  Our suppliers work with Environment Agency accredited facilities and fully track all plastics on this journey.

Black bag waste goes directly to our state of the art facility in Wolverton where it’s recovered for recycling, organically treated and turned into energy.

The most likely cause of the MK recycling sacks found in Malaysia is misuse.  Until recently we issued millions of recycling sacks a year, but far fewer ended up being used for household recycling.  It’s one of the reasons we introduced an online ordering system last year.

This documentary is right to shine a light on poor processes.  We hope it makes local people even more determined to recycle, because in MK their recycling is processed properly and our non-recyclable waste has a use, creating energy.

We all have a responsibility to think about the plastics we buy.  As a council we’re working hard with residents to reduce contamination of our recycling and ensure that the right items go into the recycling sacks.  

We asked to be interviewed as part of the programme, but this was declined.

Click here to watch a short video on our process.