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.]

COVID-19 Waste Shipment (EU)

On 16 March 2020, the Commission adopted Guidelines for border management measures to protect health and ensure the availability of goods and essential services.

On this basis, on 23 March 2020, the Commission adopted a Communication on the implementation of the Green Lanes under the Guidelines with specific recommendations designed to preserve the EU-wide operation of supply chains and ensure the functioning of the Single Market for goods, wherever internal border controls exist or have been introduced.

I blog posted about this at the time.

The European Commission issued (30th March) a Communication explicitly clarifying that the principles relating to transport of goods apply mutatis mutandis to shipments of waste.

This document is here.

Environment Bill (published) Part 3 (England & UK part)

The Bill is here. 130 Clauses in 8 Parts, and 20 Schedules.

The Explanatory Memorandum is here.

The Environment Bill (“the Bill”) is comprised of two thematic halves.

(1) A legal framework for environmental governance once the UK leaves the EU.

This was earlier published in part as the draft Environment (Principles and Governance) Bill on 19 December 2018, fulfilling a legal obligation set out in section 16 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. The measures published at that time related only to environmental principles and governance, and placing the government’s 25 Year Environment Plan on a statutory footing.

I posted two Blog posts about this (Brexit) – one on Parts 1&2 and one on the Environment Bill changing UK REACH (Brexit Law).

(2) Provision for specific improvement of the environment, including measures on waste and resource efficiency, air quality and environmental recall, water, nature and biodiversity, and conservation covenants.

SPECIFIC IMPROVEMENT of the ENVIRONMENT

Part 3 – the Waste and Resource Efficiency Part of the Environment Bill – includes –

– requiring producers to pay the full net cost of managing their products at end of life to incentivise more sustainable use of resources;

[some of this aligns with EU policy]

– allowing deposit return schemes to be established, whereby a deposit is included in the price of an in-scope item (such as a drink in a bottle or can) which is redeemed when the item is returned to a designated point;

[some EU member states have deposit return schemes, this aspect has been pre-consulted on by DEFRA]

– enabling producer responsibility obligations to be applied at all levels of the waste hierarchy to, for example, facilitate the prevention of food waste and increase the redistribution of food surplus;

[extended producer responsibility is also an EU objective in changes already made to some EU waste law]

– enabling charges to be applied to specified single-use plastic items;

[this aspect has been pre-consulted on by DEFRA]

– requiring local authorities in England to collect the same range of materials for recycling from households;

– ensuring households have a weekly separate food waste collection;

– ensuring businesses and public bodies present recyclable materials for separate collection and arranging for its separate collection;

[some of this is already provided for in existing Law, with regional variants]

– enabling government to set resource efficient product standards and information and labelling requirements, to drive a shift in the market towards durable, repairable and recyclable products;

[I wrote a recent Blog post about changes in EU eco-design law in this area]

– improving proportionality and fairness of litter enforcement, by issuing statutory guidance on the use of enforcement powers and extending an existing power to set out conditions to be met by all those carrying out enforcement activity;

– improving the management of waste, by enabling the Secretary of State to make regulations in relation to waste tracking digitally;

– improving the regulators’ effectiveness in tackling waste crime, reducing the cost of that criminal activity on the wider economy, environment and society;

– allowing the Environment Agency to be more flexible and responsive in managing exempt waste sites and ensure proportionate controls are in place to avoid environmental harm or illegal activity as waste market practices change;

– filling a gap in existing powers to ensure that waste can be collected and disposed of when normal processes fail;

– enabling the Secretary of State to make regulations to amend the permitted range of penalties for existing Fixed Penalty Notices; and

– enabling the Secretary of State to regulate the import, export or transit of waste and hazardous waste.

[Brexit Law makes provision for the international shipment of radioactive waste, shipments of waste to the EU after EU Exit will be subject to EU third country rules, unless new bi-laterals are agreed, or this matter is addressed in the trade deal]

As a Bill, this document would need to pass both Houses of Parliament to enter the statute books. You note, I pegged this as England.

Scotland and Northern Ireland already have Law on food waste. Waste is a devolved matter.

However, some Clauses are intended to have effect outside England – see page 194 of the Explanatory Memorandum which has a table.

If the Bill enters the statute books, the provisions then need to be commenced, some may be commenced immediately, such as those that are needed directly for EU Exit, but there could be a substantive delay in the commencement of other Part, such as Part 3.

I will issue further Blog posts, please look out for them.