MEPs have largely backed proposed changes to the 2013 Waste Shipment Regulation (WSR) but the Bureau of International Recycling (BIR) is ‘very concerned regarding its potential impact on the global circular economy’.
Meanwhile, EuRIC has expressed dismay at the development, citing major inconsistencies undermining the trade of recycled materials. It applauds mandatory recycled content targets for plastics but says a failure to consider targets for metals and paper is a significant omission that will erode demand and impede green investment in new and upscaled recycling facilities in Europe.
Parliament’s Environment Committee agrees with the Commission that EU exports of hazardous waste to non-OECD countries should be prohibited. It also believes that EU exports of non-hazardous waste for recovery would only be allowed to non-OECD countries that give consent and demonstrate the ability to treat the waste sustainably.
MEPs also supported a Commission proposal to explicitly prohibit shipments within the EU of all wastes destined for disposal, except in limited and well-justified cases.
The new rules would also include digitalising the exchange of information and documents within the internal market. It’s argued that storing information in a central electronic system will improve data reporting, analysis and transparency.
BIR, meanwhile, maintains that exports to countries outside the EU – both OECD and developing (non-OECD) countries – will be considerably burdened by intergovernmental agreements and inspections, audits and checks on facilities in third countries.
It notes there are further legislative steps to undergo at the Council of Ministers before the new WSR can be implemented so BIR will be working with its members to secure their future business.
‘Moreover, the worldwide concern about plastic pollution will likely lead to a prohibition on plastic recyclables exports from the EU, and furthermore has led to harsher conditions on exports of other recyclables desired by industries around the world,’ BIR insists.
BIR president Tom Bird is concerned at the potential damage to the international recycling industry. ‘These regulations represent a thinly disguised back-door protectionism that puts our industry in danger while severely disrupting the global circular economy,’ he says.
‘It should be blatantly clear to everybody that the trade of vital raw materials such as recycled metals should not be restricted. BIR as an organisation remains fully committed to ensuring exactly that – free trade of recyclables in a global circular economy.’
Lack of harmony
EuRIC, an umbrella organisation for European recyclers says it is encouraged by the Parliament’s support of the proposals to facilitate the export of recycled materials within the EU, such as establishing English as the common language or extended time limits for receiving shipments.
‘Nevertheless, the lack of harmonised end-of-waste criteria and rules that allow Member States to reject shipments will continue to impede a functioning single market for recycled materials in Europe,’ it says. It also complains that MEPs have reinforced a one-size-fits-all approach to export restrictions.
Emmanuel Katrakis, EuRiIC secretary general, says recycled materials already struggle to compete with extracted raw materials. ‘If current waste shipment proposals are adopted, this will be yet another major setback for Europe’s recycling industries and our climate
Ambitions. If the EU wants a vibrant recycling industry that leads the circular economy transition and reinvests in Europe, it must establish rules that accelerate rather than impede demand for recycled materials.’
FEAD, the umbrella organisation for trade bodies within the EU, argues the exports regime proposed by the Commission inm he updated WSR is a ‘de facto export ban’.
‘FEAD reiterates that it remains essential to safely ship non-hazardous “green listed” waste, which is a commodity, beyond EU borders to be integrated as secondary raw materials in manufacturing processes,’ it says.
‘The extreme administrative burden that is intended to be put on third countries to be able to receive such green listed waste will have a disproportionate deterrent effect, while sound environmental management, transparency, and traceability can be equally and sufficiently ensured through audit procedures.’
A major target for EC policy makers are illegal waste shipments and waste criminality. FEAD is calling on legislators to reinforce controls and enforcement measures, to improve traceability and cooperation among Member States, and to establish strong harmonised end-of-waste criteria and criteria to distinguish between used goods and waste.
‘FEAD calls for a strong demand of secondary raw materials and safe waste shipments with clear, efficient, and harmonised rules, to enable the re-incorporation of those valuable materials back into the circular economy.’