In August, exchequer secretary Robert Jenrick said: “Tackling the scandal of plastic pollution is one of our top priorities.” But it’s now confirmed what many have long suspected, that the UK recycling industry is riven with corruption (Report, 19 October) and only now is government dimly aware of the problem. Taxing coffee mugs and plastic straws, and placing a charge on plastic bags are commendable actions, but in the face of ever-increasing plastic production, single-use or not, are minuscule and potentially token. In addition to stamping out the illegal export of waste and reducing single use plastic at source, a radical upheaval of domestic recycling is required. Local authorities pay waste management companies to collect, sort and, hopefully, recycle domestic plastic waste. Yet they only recycle a proportion of it and ship the rest abroad. Much ends in landfill or in the oceans. The council tax we pay for these destructive processes could be better deployed.

With rapid progress now being made on carbon capture, home and industrial-based pyrolysis (waste to energy), and other plastic-to-fuel processes, there is a strong case to stockpile plastic that is difficult to recycle or contaminated. In compacted or granulated form at 10% of its previous volume, it can be stored for future use as feedstock for negative emission energy production and other innovative uses. We used to have grain mountains and wine lakes. Why not temporary plastic mountains?
Patrick Cosgrove
Chapel Lawn, Shropshire

As your report (Ban on plastic waste imports costs councils in England up to £500,000, 20 October) says, we export more than two-thirds of the plastic waste we create, while countries such as China are banning the import of these wastes because they cannot deal with them any more than we can. So is it not time for a rethink? Many plastics cannot be recycled, and, once mixed, the problem becomes near-impossible, so a more sensible approach would be simply to burn these “unrecyclables”, making sure we recover energy from the borrowed oil they represent.

This can be done well in properly designed furnaces, perhaps even with carbon dioxide removal, while the heat created can be used for generating electricity. Better still, we should stop pretending that we can recycle these mixed materials, and simply collect all household rubbish and burn the lot.
David Reed

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