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EU to Ban All Plastic Waste Exports

The European Parliament and European Council have reached an agreement to prohibit the export of plastic waste to countries not in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries (non-OECD countries) as part of the updated waste shipment regulations.

Virginijus Sinkevičius, European Commissioner for Environment, Oceans, and Fisheries stated:

The agreement reached today by the two institutions shows our joint commitment to take responsibility of our waste challenges, rather than exporting our problems abroad.

The European Commission has outlined that the ban on plastic waste exports will be implemented two and a half years after formal approval by the Parliament and Council for the regulation change. This move aligns with efforts to combat waste colonialism, with environmental campaign groups, including Rethink Plastic alliance and Break Free From Plastic, viewing it as an important step in the right direction. The regulatory move also aims to step up the EU’s response to waste trafficking.

The regulations stipulate that non-OECD countries may receive plastic waste for only five years after the rules come into force, subject to meeting specific environmental conditions. Additionally, waste suitable for recycling will be exported only when it can be assured of sustainable waste management.

The agreement also addresses intra-EU waste shipments, prohibiting exports destined for disposal unless authorised and consented to. Intra-EU shipments for recovery will follow less stringent procedures.

While this represents an improvement in current obligations, some environmental groups, such as Rethink Plastic alliance and Break Free From Plastic, express regret that the EU has not completely ceased exporting plastic to all non-EU countries.

Lauren Weir, senior campaigner at the Environmental Investigation Agency on behalf of Rethink Plastic, stated, “Whilst this is an improvement to current obligations, the evidence of the harms and necessity for a full plastic waste ban are clear.

Martin Trigg-Knight, Director of Compliance Services at Clarity Environmental commented:

It’s positive to see tighter control on exports coming in across Europe. For the UK, until own plastics recycling infrastructure develops to a point where all plastic can be recycled effectively, and economically, any plastics waste exports will also need to be tightly policed.

Martin trigg-Knight

Director of Compliance Services at Clarity Environmental

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