European Parliament wants to ban export of plastic waste

The European Parliament approved an amendment to the waste shipment law on Tuesday that bans the export of plastic waste to countries outside the EU. Negotiations with member states still have to take place. The parliament wants the ban to take effect within three years for countries outside the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and within four years for OECD members.

Such a ban will be a game-changer for the industry, thinks MEP Sara Matthieu, who co-negotiated the new regulation. "This will create a strong incentive to design better recyclable and reusable plastics and to increase recycling capacity in the EU in the short term," she said. "We currently export mainly to Turkey, which cannot even take care of its own plastic waste. And by dumping our waste we are making it much worse over there. These are tragedies for people and the environment."

"It takes 100 to 1,000 years for that waste, which is killing our oceans, to break down," added colleague Frédérique Ries. "In the context of China's closure of its recycling market two years ago (...) and the depletion of our natural resources, Europe has understood that it must take its fate into its own hands and protect its internal market." 

The regulation goes beyond plastic waste. Exports of waste to countries outside the OECD will only be possible if those countries are asking for it and can prove that they can process it. A separate monitoring system will exist for exports to OECD countries, that could suspend trade in case of problems. Exporters will have to carry out an independent audit of waste processors in other countries, who will have to prove that they process that waste in an environmentally friendly way.

In 2020, the EU exported 32.7 million tonnes of waste to non-EU countries, accounting for about 16 per cent of global waste trade. This represents a 75 per cent increase compared to 2004. On top of that, EU member states trade 67 million tonnes of waste among themselves every year.



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