Plastics may be removed from recycling export green list

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Recycling exports
A container ship used to transport recycled materials

A proposal from the Norwegian Government could lead to plastics destined for recycling being removed from the export green list.

Amendments to the Basel Convention have been submitted by the Norwegian Government “in order to increase the effectiveness of the [Basel] Convention as regards plastics wastes, and especially wastes that lead to marine pollution”.

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Currently, plastics are listed under the “B” list in Annex IX of the Basel Convention that allows for these materials to be exported under controls.

For UK exporters, this means that an Annex VII form must be filled in to describe the waste, identify the exporter and the end destination including the importer and the details of the facility where the material will be recycled. This Annex VII form must then accompany the waste at all times. Exporters must also meet any laws or regulations of the country being exported to.

However, the Norwegian proposal would remove plastics from what is commonly known as the green list of materials, while not considering them a hazardous waste that is banned for export under the Basel Convention.

As a result, exporters of plastics would need to notify the authorities in the country of destination that the material was being exported there, receive consent and potentially pay fees too.

Norway’s proposal includes adding a new entry to Annex II of the Convention using the code Y48. This would give plastics special consideration along with Y46: Wastes Collected from Households and Y47: Residues Arising from the Incineration of Household Waste.

Its proposed description is: Y48: Plastic Waste. Waste and Scrap from Plastic and Mixed Plastic Materials and Mixtures of Waste Containing Plastics, Including Microplastic Beads.

Norway has said it will provide more information on this amendment in due course.

While these amendments will make exporting of recyclable plastics more difficult for UK and European countries, it will create particular difficulties for US exporters.

The United States has never ratified the Basel Convention, and therefore is not able to export materials that are not on the green list to countries that have signed up to the Convention.

While it would be able to export plastics still to OECD countries as this is allowed under the Basel Convention, most OECD countries are not net importers of plastics.

For example, countries such as Malaysia, Vietnam and Indonesia have all ratified the Basel Convention, but are not members of the OECD.

The Norwegian amendment will be discussed at the next Basel Convention Working Group meeting on 3-6 September in Geneva. If the amendment is accepted, then legislation such as the European Union Waste Shipment Regulations and the UK Transfrontier of Shipment Regulations would need to be changed to include the new rules on plastic.

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