Plastic Waste Shipment (EU)

On 22nd December 2020 the EU adopted new rules on the export, import and intra-EU shipment of plastic waste – here. [these changes are not yet in the CONSLEG consolidated law version uploaded on Cardinal Environment EHS Legislation Registers & Checklist, and the updated law will be added shortly]

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.

The new rules entered into force on 1 January 2021. They apply to exports, imports and intra-EU shipments of plastic waste: [see below per the EU news announcement]

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.

Intra-EU shipments

• 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 amend the EU’s Waste Shipment Regulation (EU Waste Transhipment Regulation) and implement the decision taken by 187 countries in May 2019 at the Conference of the Parties of the Basel Convention. This Basel 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.

The EU ban on exports outside the OECD of plastic waste that is difficult to recycle, goes further than the requirements of the Basel Convention.

[Note: the UK is outside the EU, it did update its International Waste Shipment Regulation to incorporate a prior notification and consent process effective 1st Jan 2021 – see Cardinal Environment Registers and Checklists – but it did not implement a ban on exports of plastic waste to non-OECD. DEFRA – The government had “pledged to ban the export of all plastic waste to non-OECD countries”, but no timetable for action exists. Research is commissioned to better understand existing UK plastic waste recycling capacity and DEFRA would consult in due course on how to deliver its manifesto commitments.]

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