Malaysia announced that it will be shipping out 450 tonnes of contaminated plastic waste imported illegally from countries like US, China and UK. This waste will be shipped back to their country of origin. The principal issue is that this plastic waste is low-quality and contaminated, making it non-recyclable.
According to the Environment Agency, the UK exported over 600,000 tonnes of recovered plastic waste abroad in 2018, with Malaysia as the first destination since China’s plastic import ban started in January 2018. It means that over 25% of our plastic waste produced in the UK is exported and partly ends up in landfills and in the oceans.
The government is starting to wake up to the problem introducing a ban on single used plastic straws, drink stirrers and cotton buds from next April.
However, the scale of the problem means this ban lacks ambition. Improving the recycling of our plastic waste and reducing our overall plastic consumption should become key focus points of governments, corporates and individuals.
Tomra, a Norwegian listed company held in our Positive Impact Portfolios, is a great example of how to eradicate plastic pollution. Tomra is the world leader in the field of reverse vending, collecting and recycling aluminium cans, glass and plastic bottles. Users get an instant reward when returning used containers, motivating repeated use and raising collection rates. With only 55% of the plastic bottles used in the UK being recycled vs over 90% in Norway, the UK would benefit a lot from this technology and we would need the government to back it as quickly as possible.
In terms of performance, May saw the EQ Positive Impact Portfolios slightly down from the April high due to further trade tensions between the US and the rest of the world. This resulted in riskier investments like equities and especially those tied in any way to China, sold off while bonds rallied as investors sought safe havens.
However, we remain strong supporters of global exporting companies like Tomra which has developed technologies with strong growth potential irrespective of trade tensions. With the increased focus on plastic waste, Tomra’s revenues are expected to grow by over 10% this year and the stock remains a strong performer within the portfolios.
There are more company examples in our latest quarterly update addressing both environmental and social challenges.
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