EU waste shipment revisions ‘diverge from free trade’

The Bureau of International Recycling (BIR) says the European Commission’s proposed revisions to its waste shipment regulation “diverge from free and fair trade”. 

The Commission published its proposals in a bid to reduce exports of waste for recycling from the EU to third countries (picture: Shutterstock)

This comes as the Basel Action Network (BAN) described the proposals as “a step above current measures in place” and urged the commission to go further.  

The Commission published its proposals on 17 November) in a bid to reduce exports of waste for recycling from the EU to third countries (see letsrecycle.com story). 

The Brussels-based BIR is an international trade association for the recycling sector, with around 70 countries represented. 

It says it supports regulations that aim to protect human health and the environment and that ensure recyclables are moved to “environmentally soundly managed” facilities. 

However, it claims the proposals will reduce the cost of materials within the EU. The BIR believes that “artificially lowering” the costs of materials in the EU for the EU manufacturing industry will affect the capacity of the European recycling industry to invest in “efficient and innovative” recycling capacities and processes. 

It also suggests that the proposals will result in excess volumes by cutting access to outside markets. 

‘Burdens’

The BIR’s trade and environment director, Ross Bartley, said: “The regulatory burdens placed on EU secondary raw material suppliers by this proposal far outweigh those on competing primary raw materials suppliers and their imports into the EU.”

The BIR says it and its member associations are “willing to contribute” to the “long co-decision process” on the proposals which will take place throughout the next year and involve the European Parliament. 

BAN 

Others have taken a different view. While the BAN described the proposals as “a step above current measures in place”, the American non-profit campaign group called for the EU to “take responsibility for the high levels of waste it generates” by banning all extra-EU plastic waste exports. 

It claims the choice to restrict only certain plastic exports to non-OECD countries and a “lack of clarity” weaken the proposed rules. 

The EU should stop playing the global waste trade shell game

– Jim Puckett, the Basel Action Network’s executive director

Jim Puckett, the Basel Action Network’s executive director, said: “The Basel Convention calls for all countries to be self-sufficient in waste management. 

EU waste shipment
Jim Puckett, the Basel Action Network’s executive director

“Certainly, the EU, which is very well resourced compared to the rest of the world, should be among the first group of nations to achieve full waste self-sufficiency and stop playing the global waste trade shell game. They must adopt a no-exceptions ban on waste trade period.”

And, the Environmental Investigation Agency, an international NGO which investigates and campaigns against environmental crime, suggests the proposals “do not fully address” the “current legislative or implementation weaknesses” in the EU’s efforts to combat illegal plastic waste trade practices. 

Tim Grabiel, senior lawyer at the Environmental Investigation Agency, said: “This proposal gets some things very right and some things very wrong. 

“While we commend the Commission for continuing to take action to limit plastic waste exports to non-OECD countries and enhance independent monitoring, the lack of consent procedures on plastic waste movements within the EU will create new dumping grounds and exacerbate illegal trade.” 

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