Banning waste transports : European Parliament pushes for tighter rules for waste shipments

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Back in November 2021 European Commission tabled a proposal to reform the EU rules on waste shipments, laying down procedures and control measures for the shipment of waste, depending on its origin, destination and transport route, the type of waste shipped and the type of waste treatment applied when it reaches its destination.

Now the European Parliament adopted the report with 594 votes in favour, 5 against and 43 abstentions.

With the revised legislation the EU aims to protect the environment and human health more effectively, while taking full advantage of the opportunities provided by waste to achieve the EU’s goals of a circular and zero-pollution economy.

In 2020, EU exports of waste to non-EU countries reached 32.7 million tonnes, representing about 16% of global trade in waste. In addition, around 67 million tonnes of waste are shipped between EU countries every year.

Better information exchange on shipments within the EU

With the adopted text, MEPs support explicitly banning shipments of all wastes destined for disposal within the EU, except if authorised in limited and well-justified cases. Uniform criteria for the classification of waste should be implemented with the aim of ensuring that the rules are not circumvented by clearly distinguishing, for example, between used goods and waste.

The new rules would include digitalising the exchange of information and documents within the internal market. Storing information in a central electronic system would improve data reporting, analysis and transparency, MEPs underline.

Bans on waste shipments to non-OECD countries

MEPs agreed that EU exports of hazardous waste to non-OECD countries would be prohibited completely.

According to the revised text, exporting non-hazardous waste for recovery would be allowed only 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.

Regarding the much-discussed export of plastic waste, MEPs also want to ban plastic waste exports to non-OECD countries and to phase out its export to OECD countries within four years.

Furthermore, the European Parliament calls for the creation of an EU risk-based targeting mechanism to guide EU countries that carry out inspections to prevent and detect illegal shipments of waste.

This announcement follows the recent news regarding the proposed revisions to the EU’s Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive. The EU plans to introduce new targets aimed at reducing packaging waste and boosting the use of recycled material.

Rapporteur Pernille Weiss (EPP, DK) said: “Our ambitious position in the coming negotiations with member states has just been endorsed by a broad majority in plenary. We must turn waste into resources in the common market, and thereby take better care of our environment and competitiveness. The new rules will also make it easier for us to combat waste crime inside and outside EU. And, with the export ban on plastic waste that we suggest, we are pushing for a much more innovative and circular economy wherever plastic is involved. That is a true win for the next generations.”

As a next step MEPs are now ready to start negotiations with EU member states.