The European Commission is currently preparing the revision of the EU Waste Shipment Regulation (Regulation 1013/2006) as announced in the European Green Deal. The purpose of this review is to facilitate the recycling in the EU and to make more stringent the provisions on shipment to third countries.
This revision will have implications on plastic waste trade, which is causing serious environmental and health impacts in third countries. In the last years, different actions have been taken to address this matter. In 2018 China, leading importer of plastic scrap, announced the decision to restrict the import of most plastic waste, implementing the full ban in January 2021. This decision was followed by other neighboring countries that face similar problems caused by the import of plastic waste.
In May 2019, the Basel convention was amended (entered into force the 1 January 2021) to enhance the control of transboundary movements of different types of plastic waste. With the amendments, EU waste operators are no longer able to export low quality plastic (unsorted plastic) waste to non-members of the OECD group. Only clean non-hazardous plastic waste destined for recycling can be exported (through the prior informed consent’ procedure).
Despite these new rules, there are still key factors that should be addressed during the revision of the Waste Shipment Regulation:
- Ensure that waste that is exported outside the EU (also to non-OECD) is dealt in a sustainable manner with clearer rules and easier to enforce;
- Improve transparency and traceability of waste in both OECD and non-OECD countries;
- Better inspection system to ensure that proper treatment by exporting companies is implemented;
- Ensure that plastic waste exported it is really high-quality recyclable waste and is effectively recycled;
- Measures against illegal shipments in place.
The revision of the Waste Shipment Regulation can be key to address the adverse effects of plastic waste trade but it should go hand in hand with waste prevention policies. Product design is crucial to improve the quality of plastics and ensure that all plastic products put on the EU market have a value, are reusable, without any toxic substances and recyclable at the end of life.