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EU parliament lends support to proposals for ban on plastic waste exports

The European parliament has given its support to a new law that would ban exports of plastic waste to non-OCED (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries and phase out the export of plastic waste to OCED countries within the next four years. × The Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety was almost unanimous in support of new legislation with 76 votes in favour, no votes against and five abstentions to bring the legislation in place which, could see a significant boost for the EU in regards to hitting sustainability targets and provide a boost for the circular economy as a whole.

The EU suggested in its ‘context for proposal’ document that there was a strong argument to phase out the export of waste plastic not only to create a stronger circular approach but also to protect human and environmental health: “Waste shipped across borders can generate risks for human health and the environment, especially when not properly controlled.” This is particularly alarming because as of 2019, EU exports of waste to non-EU countries reached 32.7 million tonnes, representing about 16% of global trade in waste. While 67 million tonnes of plastic waste are shipped between EU countries each year.

While the future ambition of phasing out exports to OCED countries remains a longer term goal for the EU, the commission is seemingly to seek a compromise that would still allow exports, but under tighter controls in the short term, according to EU proposals: ‘The Commission would also monitor waste exports to OECD countries more closely to ensure that they manage waste in an environmentally sound manner as required by the rules and that they do not adversely affect the management of domestic waste in that country.’

However, the EU are fully backing the stringent proposals of a ban on export to developing to non-OCED countries, with the commission being firm on the idea that exports of hazardous waste to non-OCED countries is a no-go, while the proposals for the export of non-hazardous waste containing a tinge more leniency, according to proposals ‘EU exports of non-hazardous waste for recovery would be allowed only to those non-OECD countries that give their consent and demonstrate their ability to treat this waste sustainably. The Commission would draw up a list of such recipient countries, to be updated at least every year.’

Rapporteur of recent meetings on the topic, Pernille Weiss has acknowledged the need for the EU to take a lead on the issue, stating: ““Fully utilising waste as a resource should be an essential element of our transition to a circular economy. I am happy that today we could come together in support of a balanced approach on shipments of waste: it ensures safeguards for human and environmental health, while providing the necessary framework for industry to deliver on our ambitions. I hope that in this way, the EU can become a world leader in an innovative, sustainable use of waste.”

In addition to a blanking ban and phasing out of plastics, MEP’s have also called for tighter restrictions on the prevention and detection of illegal waste shipments. Under proposals, there is an argument that btighter checks through the creation of a digital database would lead to greater transparency allowing for greater analysis and reporting of waste data.

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Publication date: 20/01/2023

European Plastic Product Manufacturer

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Last update: 2022-01-31