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Environment

Plastic waste shipments

From 1 January 2021, new EU rules apply to shipments of plastic waste.

Overview

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 EU has introduced rules on the shipments of plastic waste, implementing the decision taken by 187 countries in May 2019 at the 14th Conference of the Parties of the Basel Convention. The different entries for the classification of plastic waste which is hazardous, non-hazardous or requiring special consideration were changed in this decision.

The new entries (Y48, A3210 and B3011) have been implemented in the EU Waste Shipment Regulation through Delegated Regulation (EU) 2020/2174.

New entries for shipments within the OECD (AC300) and the EU (EU48 and EU3011) have also been introduced into the EU Waste Shipment Regulation.

Procedures

Different procedures apply depending on the type and destination (intra-EU, OECD, non-OECD) of plastic waste.

Exports from the EU

  • Exporting hazardous plastic waste (A3210) and plastic waste that is hard to recycle (Y48) from the EU to non-OECD countries will be banned.
  • Exporting clean, non-hazardous waste (which is destined for recycling) (B3011) 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 (cf. Regulation 1418/2007).
  • Exporting hazardous plastic waste (AC300 ) and plastic waste that is hard to recycle (Y48) 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.

Intra-EU shipments

  • The “prior notification and consent procedure” will also apply to intra-EU shipments of hazardous plastic waste (AC300), and of non-hazardous plastic waste (that is difficult to recycle) (EU48).
  • All intra-EU shipments of non-hazardous waste for recovery (EU3011) will be exempt from these new controls.

The new entries EU3011 and EU48 for non-hazardous plastic waste are largely modelled on the entries agreed in the Basel Convention but with some differences.

Summary tables - procedures for import, export and intra-EU plastic waste

Objectives

The 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.

These rules should end the export of plastic waste to third countries that often do not have the capacity and standards to manage it sustainably. 

Timeline

Key dates related to EU rules on shipments of plastic waste

  1. 1 January 2021
    Delegated Regulation (EU) 2020/2174 on plastic waste shipments enters into force
  2. May 2019
    The 14th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Basel Convention took place
  3. 14 June 2006
    Waste Shipment Directive enters into force

Contact

For information about EU rules on shipments of plastic waste, please contact our functional mailbox.