This comes after a shadow minister criticised the government for choosing “not to adopt EU regulations banning the export of plastic waste to non-OECD countries”.
Helen Hayes, the shadow minister for the cabinet, wrote to Mrs Pow on 13 January requesting an explanation, and asking if an assessment has been made on the pledge not to regress from EU environmental standards.
In response, Mrs Pow said the UK government’s manifesto commitment to ban plastic waste exports to non-OECD countries “goes further” than that of the EU.
She said that in implementing the amendments to the Basel Convention, which the UK has also done, the European Union has prohibited the export of one category of plastic waste, consisting of highly mixed plastics, to countries that are not members of the OECD.
However, she added that the UK Government’s manifesto commitment to ban plastic waste exports to non-OECD countries “goes further than this as it is not limited to one category of plastic waste”.
Mrs Pow added that Defra is to consult on ”going beyond the Basel Convention requirements, and the approach adopted by the EU, and work is underway to make this happen”.
In the meantime, she said the UK has implemented changes to the Basel Convention on 1 January.
“The UK is not regressing on environmental standards in this area. We were a strong supporter of the changes made to the Basel Convention”
“The UK is not regressing on environmental standards in this area. We were a strong supporter of the changes made to the Basel Convention to make shipments of plastic waste more transparent and better regulated and we worked closely with the Norwegian government in developing the original proposals,” she said.
Mrs Pow added: “The UK government has implemented the amendments made to the Basel Convention. These amendments came into force in Great Britain on 1 January 2021 and will ensure that shipments of highly mixed plastic wastes can only take place if permission is obtained from the regulators in the country of dispatch and destination.
“Furthermore, the Government is currently engaged in contacting all non-OECD countries to enquire about the local controls that should be adhered to by British exporters when they propose to export sorted plastic waste for recycling. The results of this consultation will be implemented in our legislation shortly.”
The Environment Agency also released a regulatory position statement (RPS) yesterday enabling reprocessors to temporarily exceed the limits for storing waste plastic if it cannot be removed from a site because of disruption caused by changes to the Basel Convention.
However, this must be done with written consent from the Environment Agency and only applies to non-hazardous waste plastic that is a mixture of polymers destined for export, which also meets the requirements of the Basel code.