INDUSTRY experts have defended Hampshire civic chiefs’ policy of sending tonnes of recycled waste 11,000 miles to China.

Leading waste management firm DS Smith said the demand for recycled waste such as cardboard and paper was greater in Asia because of the strength of the manufacturing market.

It comes after The Gazette reported that 67 per cent of the waste collected in Hampshire between April and June this year was paper and cardboard sent to be processed in China, with waste transported on container ships from Southampton to Guandong Province.

The move has been heavily criticised and was described as a “farce” by Hampshire UKIP leader Alan Stone.

But Peter Clayson, general manager of business development and external affairs for DS Smith’s recycling division, said materials had to go where they would get the best value.

He said: “The majority of manufacturing is undertaken in China and Asia so the demand for cardboard boxes and packaging is greater in these countries, resulting in more materials exported to this part of the world.

“In the UK there has been consolidation in the industry as smaller mills have been closed down and larger more efficient plants invested in. While it is preferable to use materials as close to home as possible the realities of working within a global market mean that materials are sold where they can attain the best value, where there is the greatest demand for it.”

He added: “More of us are reading newspapers or magazines via tablets or smart phones, creating less demand for the paper for traditional publications to be printed on.As the UK operates in a global market for recycled materials, increases in capacity will always follow where the greatest demand is.”

Bosses at Hampshire County Council and waste disposal giant Veolia – which co-ordinates the Project Integra arrangement to dispose of waste from all of the county – say upheavals in the UK paper market and the closure of some mills have caused them to look overseas.

They say that there is no overall cost to the councils, which share revenue from selling the material to Chinese mills.

Mr Clayson added the container ships that takes waste to China are often making return trips after delivering goods to the UK, and so are not making extra journeys.

He did not rule out his firm taking on some of Hampshire’s waste in the future but said their deals were “subject to individual commercial negotiation”.