Today, the European Commission adopted new rules on the export, import and intra-EU shipment of plastic waste. These new rules ban the export of plastic waste from the EU to non-OECD countries, except for clean plastic waste sent for recycling. Exporting plastic waste from the EU to OECD countries and imports in the EU will also be more strictly controlled.
Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius said:
These new rules send a clear message that in the EU we are taking responsibility for the waste we generate. The export of plastic waste will only be allowed under very strict conditions. The export of unsorted plastic waste to non-OECD countries will be completely banned. This is an important milestone in fighting plastic pollution, transitioning shifting to a circular economy, and achieving the aims of the European Green Deal.
In the last decade, uncontrolled trade in plastic waste has increased, damaging both the environment and public health. Plastic waste has ended up in landfills, been burnt in open air or dumped in the ocean. The new rules should end the export of plastic waste to third countries that often do not have the capacity and standards to manage it sustainably. This is also a key commitment of both the European Green Deal and the new Circular economy action plan. In parallel, today’s decision contributes to the EU plastics strategy, which aims to reduce plastic waste and encourage better sorting and recycling.
The new rules will enter into force on 1 January 2021. They apply to exports, imports and intra-EU shipments of plastic waste:
Exports from the EU
- Exporting hazardous plastic waste and plastic waste that is hard to recycle from the EU to non-OECD countries will be banned.
- Exporting clean, non-hazardous waste (which is destined for recycling) from the EU to non-OECD countries will only be authorised under specific conditions. The importing country must indicate which rules apply to such imports to the European Commission. The export from the EU will then only be allowed under the conditions laid down by the importing country. For countries which do not provide information on their legal regime, the “prior notification and consent procedure” will apply.
- Exporting hazardous plastic waste and plastic waste that is hard to recycle from the EU to OECD countries will be subject to the “prior notification and consent procedure”. Under this procedure, both the importing and exporting country must authorise the shipment.
Imports into the EU
- Importing hazardous plastic waste and plastic waste that is hard to recycle into the EU from third countries will be subject to the “prior notification and consent procedure”. Under this procedure, both the importing and exporting country must authorise the shipment.
- The “prior notification and consent procedure” will also apply to intra-EU shipments of hazardous plastic waste, and of non-hazardous plastic waste that is difficult to recycle.
- All intra-EU shipments of non-hazardous waste for recovery will be exempt from these new controls.
These new rules will amend the EU’s Waste Shipment Regulation (Regulation (EC) No 1013/2006), and implement the decision taken by 187 countries in May 2019 at the 14th Conference of the Parties of the Basel Convention. This decision set up a global regime governing international trade in plastic waste for the first time, by including new entries on plastic waste in the Annexes of the Convention. This demonstrates that multilateral institutions are increasingly taking binding actions against plastic pollution. By banning the export outside the OECD of plastic waste that is difficult to recycle, the EU is actually going further than the requirements of the Basel Convention.
In 2019, the EU exported 1.5 million tonnes of plastic waste, mostly to Turkey and Asian countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, India and China. The share of exported plastic waste to China has radically fallen since the country’s adoption of restrictions on the import of plastic waste in 2018.
For More Information
- Directorate-General for Environment