The European Parliament has passed the Waste Shipping Regulation proposals first announced in November 2022
The proposals stated:
“The proposal follows mainly a two-side approach: facilitate intra-EU waste shipments to promote the circular economy and tackle the export of illegal waste outside the EU, by proposing stronger rules on waste exports, a more efficient system for the circulation of waste as a resource and determined action against waste trafficking.
Waste exports to non-OECD countries will be restricted and only allowed if third countries are willing to receive certain wastes and are able to manage them sustainably. Waste shipments to OECD countries will be monitored and can be suspended if they generate serious environmental problems in the country of destination. Under the proposal, all EU companies that export waste outside the EU should ensure that the facilities receiving their waste are subject to an independent audit showing that they manage this waste in an environmentally sound manner.”
From an environmentalist initial point of view, the adoption of these proposals is to be applauded as it aims to drive the European waste economy and minimise the unregulated export of waste to third countries where it may not always be treated to the standards expected by the European Union.
EuRIC, however, expressed dismay at the adoption of the waste shipment proposals citing major inconsistencies undermining the trade of recycled materials, it says. According to EuRIC, the establishment of mandatory recycled content targets for plastics should be applauded, the failure to consider targets for metals and paper is a significant omission that will erode demand and, subsequently green investment in new and upscaled recycling facilities in Europe.
EuRIC is encouraged by the European Parliament’s support of existing proposals that facilitate the export of recycled materials within the EU, such as establishing English as the common language, or extending time limits for receiving shipments. Nevertheless, the lack of harmonised end-of-waste criteria and rules that allow Member States to reject shipments will continue to impede a functioning single market for recycled materials in Europe.
Moreover, the Parliament has regrettably reinforced a one-size-fits-all approach to export restrictions, said EuRIC. This means that the same restrictions apply to low-quality mixed plastic waste as for high-value raw materials from recycling for which access to European and international markets is essential to preserve the competitiveness of the European recycling industry. By failing to make this distinction, up to 80% of metals and paper recyclers expect losses in turnover, and up to 50% expect job losses, according to EuRIC. “Recycled materials already struggle to compete with extracted raw materials. If current waste shipment proposals are adopted, this will be yet another major setback for Europe’s recycling industries and our climate ambitions,” noted Emmanuel Katrakis, Secretary General of the European Recycling Industries’ Confederation. “If the EU wants a vibrant recycling industry that leads the circular economy transition and reinvests in Europe, it must establish rules that accelerate rather than impede demand for recycled materials. Member States must now act swiftly to address our concerns or risk unprecedented levels of incineration and massive stockpiling of valuable resources in landfill,” he added.