European Commission proposes very tough new rules on waste shipments

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The European Commission has said that its preference is to go for the toughest possible rules on waste shipments outside of the EU.

In its proposal for new waste shipment regulations, it contains four options, with option 1 being the baseline and option 4 the toughest with options 2 and 3 in-between. The Commission has said its preference is option 4.

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In option 4, there would be a requirement for intra-EU trading to use a new electronic data interchange regime. This would come into force 24 months after the implementation of the new waste shipment regulations.

But for trade outside of the EU, both the economic operators and public authorities would need to take concrete actions to verify that waste exported from the EU is treated in a sustainable manner in the countries of destination.

Effectively, this means green-listed waste only is exported to non-OECD third countries where the exporter and public authorities can show the treatment meets EU standards.

The European Commission admitted that “the export to some countries might become more difficult, which would have a negative impact on the companies exporting waste to these countries”.

However, the Commission also noted the following about option 4 that it would:

  • apply a different regime between countries of destination, with more scrutiny over countries where the waste management practices are deemed to be less sustainable than in the EU (non-OECD countries);
  • set up a mechanism, without any blanket ban, where importing countries have the opportunity to import waste from the EU if they demonstrate they are able to deal with the waste in a sustainable manner; and
  • enter into force only 3 years after the changes in the Regulation become effective, leaving a period of transition for all involved to get prepared for the new rules.

For OECD countries, there would be specific monitoring of exports to these countries, and they would still need to meet EU treatment standards.

European umbrella trade association EuRIC criticised the proposed regulations saying that they failed to distinguish between rubbish and raw materials for recycling (RMR).

EuRIC secretary general Emmanuel Katrakis said: “Free, fair and sustainable trade of RMR is absolutely essential to boost high-quality recycling in Europe and ensure the recycling industry remains competitive.

“Europe’s recycling industry is powered by SMEs and large companies, who directly employ over hundreds of thousands of Europeans, and indirectly many more.

“As stressed in the recent letter signed by 300 European national recycling federations and companies, subjecting RMR – which are still classified as non-hazardous waste – to export restrictions will, in the absence of secured end-markets for circular materials in the EU, pose a vital threat to European recyclers, be them SMEs or large multinational companies, and undermine the creation of green industrial jobs in Europe.
 
“With only 12% of raw materials used by the EU’s industry coming from recycling, binding requirements to use RMR in industrial value chains are urgently needed to ensure the excess supply of RMR, that would remain captive in Europe under these proposals, don’t end up in landfills.

“In the Commission’s toolbox to boost the transition towards a circular economy, binding requirements have proved to be the most efficient yet least utilised instrument, with the exception being for plastic packaging.”

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