World Customs Organisation investigating changes for plastic HS export codes

Indonesian Customs officials opening containers suspected of containing illegal waste

The World Customs Organisation (WCO) has said that it is looking to change the plastic HS export codes to allow for better identification of plastics.

HS codes are typically used by customs authorities to track exports and imports of products and commodities.


Most waste plastics fall under the 3915 HS code, but the sub-codes for these tend to generalise materials such as PE-based plastics rather than breaking them down into grades such as HDPE or LDPE for example.

Speaking at a World Trade Organisation meeting on plastics pollution and environmentally sustainable plastics trade, WCO deputy director of tariff and trade affairs directorate Gael Grooby said that the WCO was looking at developing more granular definitions for plastics products.

This also included how to define and identify biodegradable plastics.

However, proposed changes would need to be finalised during the limited number of meetings of the relevant committees left, ahead of a deadline of March 2024 for implementation by 2027.

She noted that if these reforms of plastics HS codes were not possible within the timeframe, then other mechanisms could be used. She reported on the Asia-Pacific Plastic Waste Project statement that aimed to strengthen the capacity of customs authorities to mitigate and appropriately respond to environmental threats in the Asia-Pacific region. In particular, this statement focused on full implementation of the Basel Convention and specific matters related to plastic waste and illegal shipment of it.

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