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Growing clamour against EU waste shipment strategy

Cinzia Vezzosi: 'European recyclers are supplying quality materials to both the European industry and globally,'

European national federations and companies from across the recycling industry are warning EU leaders of the dangers of including non-hazardous recycled materials in a blanket restriction on exports of waste.

It is a sign of growing discontent within the European recycling sector of proposals in the upcoming Waste Shipment Regulation (WSR). Raw materials from recycling (RMR) are currently labelled ‘non-hazardous waste’ under EU law and would therefore be impacted by any regulation that issues a blanket ban on waste.

Nearly 300 recycling representatives have sent a letter to the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Slovenian Presidency of the Council calling for a clear distinction between exporting ‘problematic waste streams’ (such as electronics) and RMR which meet quality specifications. They insist RMR are not waste but high-quality commodities with a green carbon footprint. Such materials are recovered from end-of-life products and are an essential component of a circular economy. With only 12% of Europe’s raw materials coming from recycled materials in a largely linear economy, it is a time to boost the recycling sector not restrict it, the signatories say.

Their letter makes three key points:

  • Export restrictions in the revised WSR are a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution with no distinction between untreated problematic waste streams and RMR and that runs against the objectives of the EU Green Deal
  • Restricting exports of raw materials meeting quality specifications based on their waste classification will significantly impact the competitiveness of the European recycling industry
  • A stable legislative framework with a proper classification for RMR and incentives is need to reward the environmental benefits of circular materials and mandate their use in products.

Cinzia Vezzosi, president of EuRIC the umbrella organisation for recycling industries, points out that RMR are climate-friendly and circular materials which are priced and traded globally as commodities. ‘European recyclers are supplying quality materials to both the European industry and globally,’ she says. ‘Subjecting RMR – which are still classified as non-hazardous waste – to export restrictions will pose a vital threat to European recyclers, be they SMEs or large multinational companies, in the absence of secured end-markets for circular materials in the EU.

‘They will result in massive green job cuts and put a lasting brake on the growth of one of the most dynamic industries in Europe for no environmental gains.’ Vezzosi fears that, with unhampered imports of extracted raw materials in Europe, the competitiveness of RMR will drop and incentives to properly collect, recycle, and invest will be lost.

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