EU Achieves Milestone in Responsible Waste Management: A Breakthrough Accord on Waste Shipments

The recent political accord between the European Parliament and the Council on waste shipments has garnered applause from the Commission, marking a significant stride in the EU's commitment to responsible waste management. Designed to prevent the exportation of environmental challenges to third countries, the agreement positions the EU to adopt a more responsible approach to its waste while fostering the utilization of waste as a valuable resource, in alignment with the objectives of the European Green Deal.

Prohibition of Plastic Waste Export

A pivotal facet of the agreement is the prohibition of plastic waste export from the EU to non-OECD countries, with exceptions granted only when stringent environmental conditions are met. The measure aims to curb environmental degradation and pollution in third countries caused by plastic waste originating in the EU, addressing the global issue of escalating plastic waste volumes.

For other recyclable waste, export to non-OECD countries will be contingent on their ability to handle it sustainably. Simultaneously, internal waste recycling within the EU will be facilitated by streamlined digitalized procedures, contributing to the circular economy. The agreement also emphasizes robust enforcement and cooperation to combat waste trafficking, complementing the newly agreed Environmental Crime Directive.

The adopted measures set a benchmark for averting environmental and public health issues in third countries arising from the unsustainable management of waste. The regulation allows waste export to non-OECD countries only if they commit to importing the waste and possess the capability to manage it sustainably. Notably, for plastic waste, export to non-OECD countries is restricted after 2.5 years, with strict conditions enabling such exports five years after the new rules come into force.

The Commission will monitor waste exports to OECD countries and take corrective action if environmental issues arise. EU companies exporting waste must ensure that facilities receiving their waste undergo an independent audit, ensuring environmentally sound waste management.

The Modernization of Waste Shipping Procedures within the EU

The modernization of waste shipping procedures within the EU, emphasizing digitization and efficient handling of eligible facilities, aims to bolster the circular economy and ensure a secure supply of raw materials.

In addressing the serious environmental crime of waste trafficking, the EU commits to enhanced cooperation among Member States and imposing stricter sanctions on criminals involved in illicit waste trade. The EU Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) will play a direct role in supporting investigations into transnational crime linked to waste trafficking.

As the European Parliament and the Council move to formally adopt the regulation, the Commission prepares for swift implementation, leveraging digital procedures and providing support to partner countries aligning with the new export requirements. This regulation, a core element of the European Green Deal, Circular Economy Action Plan, Zero Pollution Action Plan, and EU Strategy to tackle Organized Crime, reflects the EU's commitment to responsible waste management and circular economic models.


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