The European Commission has published its long-awaited proposals to tighten the regulations on the export of waste to both OECD and non-OECD countries.
A list will be drawn up of non-OECD countries that specifically request green-list wastes and can show they will be processed in an environmentally sound manner. Shipments to countries not on this approved list will be banned. Exporters to OECD countries will be monitored and shipments of waste would be suspended if they generated serious environmental problems in the country of destination.
A transition period of three years is suggested before the new rules kick in. This would give sufficient time ‘for preparing to direct waste streams to more sustainable treatment’ and for additional capacity to be built within the EU. An official impact assessment indicates no major obstacles to greater processing of metals and paper.
The Commission is also proposing ‘full digitalisation’ of waste movements between EU member states. These include fast-track procedures for shipments to ‘pre-consented’ facilities and a more harmonised classification of waste.
The Commission says this ‘further strengthens action against waste trafficking, one of the most serious forms of environmental crime as illegal shipments potentially comprise up to 30% of waste shipments worth EUR 9.5 billion annually. ‘Improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the enforcement regime includes setting up an EU Waste Shipment Enforcement Group, empowering the European Anti-Fraud Office OLAF to support transnational investigations by EU Member States on waste trafficking, and providing stronger rules on administrative penalties.’’
‘Free and fair trade’ in danger
An early response came from the Bureau of International Recycling which supports the principle that recyclables should be moved to facilities that are environmentally soundly managed but is concerned the proposals hamper ‘free and fair trade’ as businesses in the EU will be able to access cheaper waste to use as feedstock.
BIR argues that artificially lowering the costs of materials for EU manufacturers will affect the capacity of the European recycling industry to invest in efficient and innovative recycling capacities and processes.
‘By cutting access to outside markets, they will result in excess volumes which will be lost to the global circular economy,’ its press release says. ‘Such changes will finally have a counterproductive effect on the implementation of a truly global circular economy.’
BIR trade & environment director Ross Bartley adds: ‘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.’
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