20 May 2019 by Will Date

Basel Convention changes expected to hit plastic exports

Changes to international agreements governing the export of plastic waste will ‘massively harm’ the global trade in plastic for recycling, Europe’s waste industry has claimed.

This is the conclusion of FEAD, the European Federation of Waste Management and Environmental Services, in response to the decision taken in Geneva this month to amend the Basel Convention – an international treaty covering the transboundary movement of hazardous waste (see letsrecycle.com story).

Exports of plastics for recycling could be impacted by changes to the Basel Convention – an international treaty governing shipments of hazardous waste, Europe’s waste management companies have said

These changes come at a time when UK local authorities are reporting that more plastic waste collected from households is going to energy from waste plants due to a lack of demand for some grades, including certain types of pots, tubs and trays and low quality mixed films (see letsrecycle.com story).

Agreed changes to the Convention, which will come into effect from 1 January 2021, will see non-hazardous plastic waste that is not recyclable or is “difficult” to recycle categorized as waste requiring “special consideration” and listed in the Convention’s Annex II.

This will mean that materials will require prior consent from exporting and importing countries – which FEAD says could lead to delays of up to several months for some exports of material.

“There will be a drastic drop in exports outside of the EU,” as a result of the amendment, FEAD says.

Contamination

In the absence of thresholds and a clear definition of contamination, the legal criteria for meeting the conditions will also be ‘highly uncertain’ and subject to wide differences of interpretation, FEAD has claimed.

Commenting on the adoption of the proposal, FEAD’s president, Jean-Marc Boursier, said: “This international decision, of which we understand the motives but question the effectiveness regarding marine pollution, ignores that recycled wastes are traded on a global commodity market.”

“This international decision, of which we understand the motives but question the effectiveness regarding marine pollution, ignores that recycled wastes are traded on a global commodity market.”


Jean-Marc Boursier
FEAD

“Such a major drop in the exports of EU collected and sorted plastic waste will affect, in the short and in the long term, the existing separate collection and sorting systems and, finally, downgrade the EU’s recycling performances. In the absence of new markets compensating the lost exports, it will prevent new investments and jobs from being created.”

FEAD has called for public authorities such as the Environment Agency, to put in place strengthened controls against illegal trade in anticipation of the changes.

“These controls must be quick, based on the same interpretation, and legally certain in order to provide a predictable frame for export operators,” the organisation said.

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