The European Parliament has set out its position to ban plastic exports outside of the EU by 2027 and all exports of waste materials to non-OECD countries will need consent from the destination countries.
This adopted text will be used as a negotiating position with EU Governments and follows European Commission proposals for a ban on exports that was issued in 2021.
MEPs have voted for exports of non-hazardous waste recovery would only be allowed to those non-OECD countries that gave their consent and demonstrated their ability to treat this waste sustainable.
For plastics, MEPs want exports of these to be banned to both OECD and non-OECD countries by 2027. This would only permit exports within EU nations.
Each year, the European Commission would draw up a list of recipient countries that would accept waste materials for recovery.
MEPs also proposed that the European Commission would 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.
They also called for the creation of an EU risk-based targeting mechanism to guide EU countries that carry out inspections to prevent and detect illegal shipments of waste.
Rapporteur Pernille Weiss said: “Our ambitious position in the coming negotiations with member states has just been endorsed by a broad majority in plenary. We must turn waste into resources in the common market, and thereby take better care of our environment and competitiveness.
“The new rules will also make it easier for us to combat waste crime inside and outside EU. And, with the export ban on plastic waste that we suggest, we are pushing for a much more innovative and circular economy wherever plastic is involved. That is a true win for the next generations.”
MEPs also voted for mandatory recycled content targets for plastics, but not for paper and metals.
A total of 594 MEPs voted in favour of the text, 5 against and 43 abstained.
European umbrella trade association EuRIC said it was encouraged by the European Parliament’s support of existing proposals that facilitate the export of recycled materials within the EU, such as establishing English as the common language and an extended time for receiving shipments.
But it was dismayed at the lack of harmonised end-of-waste criteria and criticised rules that allow Member States to reject shipments that would impede a functioning single market for recycled materials in Europe.
It also warned that the European Parliament had introduced a one-size-fits-all approach to export restrictions that would mean the same restrictions would apply to low-quality mixed plastics as for high-quality raw materials for recycling. This would lead to losing access to European and international markets that would maintain the competitiveness of the European recycling industry. Up to 80% of metals and paper recyclers expected this to lead to reduced turnover, and up to 50% of these would end up having to cut jobs.
EuRIC secretary general Emmanuel Katrakis said: “Recycled materials already struggle to compete with extracted raw materials. If current waste shipment proposals are adopted, this will be yet another major setback for Europe’s recycling industries and our climate ambitions.
“If the EU wants a vibrant recycling industry that leads the circular economy transition and reinvests in Europe, it must establish rules that accelerate rather than impede demand for recycled materials. Member States must now act swiftly to address our concerns or risk unprecedented levels of incineration and massive stockpiling of valuable resources in landfill.”