Leader puts his reputation on the line over Milton Keynes recycling bags found in Malaysian jungle

MK Council recycling
MK Council recycling

A council leader has ordered a full independent audit of Milton Keynes recycling supply chains in the wake of a BBC TV documentary which found the authority’s rubbish bags in the Malaysian jungle.

While insisting that no “unprocessed” recycling materials from Milton Keynes leaves the UK, Cllr Pete Marland said he wanted to make sure that all the companies involved in the council’s supply chain were independently audited.

Cllr Marland on Tuesday admitted at a meeting of the Cabinet that he had earlier been wrong in saying that no plastics from Milton Keynes have been exported, after council officers told him that “processed” plastics had been sent to Taiwan.

“I learned only recently that processed plastics had been exported to Taiwan,” said Cllr Marland. “I was under the impression that no recycling materials were taken abroad but that was clarified for me by a statement from our director.”

Cllr Marland was asked by Conservative leader Cllr Alex Walker how he could be so sure that the old pink recycling sacks shown in the TV documentary were not from council-sanctioned companies.

Cllr Marland said: “The bags shown are full, and unripped. They simply do not do that in Milton Keynes. All the bags are opened on site and processed in Milton Keynes.”

He added that all the companies contracted work with the Environment Agency, which certifies their supply chains.

But Cllr Walker said Cllr Marland had put trust on the line if he was found to be wrong. “That could be found to be lying, if not misleading.”

Cllr Walker slammed the Labour-run council for “doing an outstanding job of destroying our recycling reputation which was once held up as nationally outstanding.

“We’ve broken trust with the public.”

However, Cllr Marland, who accused the Conservatives of playing party politics, believes that the episode has proved that people can trust that their recycling materials are properly handled, which should give them more confidence.

“We are clear that none of our waste goes to Malaysia through our supply chains. Full stop.”

Lib Dem Cllr Robin Bradburn said there were more important local issues than plastic bags in Malaysia: “The Conservative party should be concentrating on opposing Cllr Marland and bringing him to book on things like child poverty, which is top of our list, and things like that.”