On Jan. 17, 2023, the European Parliament adopted its negotiating position with EU member states on a new law to revise the EU’s Waste Shipment Regulation (WSR). The Parliament’s revisions aim to recognize the need for improved recycling and waste management capacity within the EU.
The proposed revisions to the WSR would phase out plastic waste exports to industrialized, Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries over four years and prohibit EU plastic waste exports to developing, non-OECD countries. EU exports of all non-hazardous waste for recovery would be allowed only to those non-OECD countries that give their consent and demonstrate their ability to treat this waste sustainably.
“Our ambitious position in the coming negotiations with member states has just been endorsed by a broad majority in plenary. We must turn waste into resources in the common market, and thereby take better care of our environment and competitiveness. The new rules will also make it easier for us to combat waste crime inside and outside EU. And, with the export ban on plastic waste that we suggest, we are pushing for a much more innovative and circular economy wherever plastic is involved. That is a true win for the next generations,” said EU Parliament Rapporteur Pernille Weiss.
In 2020, EU exports of recycled materials to non-EU countries reached 32.7 million tons, representing about 16% of global trade in recyclables.
“Increased trade restrictions on responsibly recycled materials pose significant risks to already strained supply chains and the achievement of sustainability goals,” said ISRI Chief Economist and Director of Commodities Joe Pickard.
Also included in the European Parliament’s position are control of waste disposal in the EU. Specifically, the parliament plans to create an EU risk-based targeting mechanism to guide EU countries that carry out inspections to prevent and detect illegal shipments of waste.
The European Parliament will begin negotiations with EU member states and negotiations are expected to proceed quickly, particularly in light of the six-month revolving presidency of the Council.
“For the recycled materials industry, protectionist trade measures that are anti-competitive in nature will disrupt the flow of materials to customers and generate economic costs,” said Pickard, adding “the full environmental and economic benefits generated by recycling cannot be fully captured without the free and fair trade of sustainably recycled materials globally.”
ISRI is working with member companies, trade association partners, government agencies and other stakeholders to make the case that market forces are the best determinant of where responsibly recycled materials are consumed.