MEPs recommend tougher waste shipment rules including eventual plastic export ban


Members of the European Parliament’s Environment Committee have put forward their position on European waste shipments that could eventually lead to a plastic export ban.

Voting 76 in favour, none against and five abstaining, the MEPs have put forward their views on waste shipments, which will now be submitted to the full European Parliament.


MEPs support the proposals from the European Commission to prohibit shipments within the EU of all wastes destined for disposal, except if authorised in limited and well-justified cases.

According to the adopted text by the ENVI Committee, the Commission would develop uniform criteria for the classification of waste to ensure that the rules are not circumnavigated by clearly distinguishing between used goods and waste.

New rules would also include digitalising the exchange of information and documents within the internal market.

On exporting materials outside of the EU, the ENVI Committee agreed that:

  • EU exports of hazardous waste to non-OECD countries should be prohibited
  • EU exports of non-hazardous waste for recovery would be allowed 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.
  • 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.

In addition, the Committee adopted proposals that would exclude exports of plastic waste to non-OECD countries and phase out exports to OECD countries within four years.

It also wants to make a requirement to demonstrate that the waste shipped is managed in an environmentally sound manner more stringent.

European Parliament MEP and rapporteur Pernille Weiss said: “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.”

However, trade association EuRIC was critical of the proposals. Secretary General Emmanuel Katrakis said: “By failing to distinguish between unprocessed waste and recycled materials  in terms of exports, the EU fails to turn the waste shipment regulation into an instrument that boosts the transition towards a more circular economy and further unlevel the playing field with extracted raw materials  that are not subject to similar restrictions.

“If access to international markets for European recyclers is restricted, policymakers must swiftly adopt mandatory recycled content targets for all materials including metals, paper, textiles, tyres, not only plastics and fasten the adoption of EU-wide end-of-waste criteria for streams for which such criteria have still not been defined in EU law.

“Clearly defining when waste ceases to be waste is of paramount importance to reward quality of raw materials from recycling and bolster market access within the EU and beyond.”