On 17 November, the European Commission adopted the proposal for review of the Waste Shipment Regulation. Under the proposed revision, companies would only be able to export “green-listed,” non-hazardous waste — which includes scrap metal, waste paper and certain plastics — to non-OECD nations if those countries “explicitly notify the Commission of their wish to receive new waste” and are able to prove that they can treat the waste “in a sound manner.”
The Commission’s objective is that the new rules will stop such waste from being shipped to emerging countries where it could end up being dumped instead of recycled. The goal is also to boost recycling within the EU and help keep valuable materials in the bloc. The Commission also wants to step up the monitoring of waste exports to OECD countries, enabling it to “ultimately suspend exports” if needed. All EU companies shipping waste outside the bloc would have to carry out third-party audits on the sustainability of their exports. As for waste shipments within the bloc, the revision will force them to be tracked digitally and introduces a harmonized classification for such shipments, as well as stricter conditions for waste destined for incineration and landfill. The Commission will also be setting up a new “waste shipment enforcement group” to “increase cooperation between customs, police [and] national inspection authority” and introduce “stronger rules on penalties.” The proposal has now to be approved by the EP and Council to enter into force.

What are the main measures of the proposal on the export of waste?

To ensure that the export of waste from the EU to third countries is managed sustainably, the following measures are proposed:

  • For countries that are not members of the OECD, exports of waste from the EU would be made conditional on an official request from the country to import non-hazardous waste from the EU and demonstration that it can recover it in a sound manner. A list of countries authorised to import waste from the EU will be set up.
  • The Commission will monitor the levels of waste exports from the EU to OECD countries. If there is a surge in waste exports to one of these countries, risking serious environmental or public health problems in that country, the Commission will seek information on the treatment of this waste in the country concerned. The Commission will suspend export of this waste if there is no guarantee that this treatment is sustainable.
  • EU exporting companies would have to carry out independent audits for their waste exports outside the EU. These audits should demonstrate that the facilities treat this waste in an environmentally sound manner. EU companies would only be authorised to export to these facilities if this is the case.
  • To address waste being illegally presented as “used goods”, specific binding criteria will be developed to differentiate between waste and used goods for specific commodities of a particular concern, such as used vehicles and batteries.
    What are the main measures on shipments of waste between EU Member States?

The following measures are proposed on the shipments of waste between EU Member States to unlock the potential of the EU waste market and boost the circular economy:

  • A full digitalisation of all procedures governing the shipments of waste between EU Member States, in particular for “green-listed” waste;
  • New provisions to support the use of fast-track procedures for shipments of waste destined to recovery, when they are destined to facilities certified by the EU Member States (“pre-consented facilities”);
  • Harmonised classification of waste at the EU level, to help overcome the current fragmentation of the EU market, where a shipment of waste can be subject to different interpretations and procedures when crossing borders in the EU;
  • New provisions making it possible to streamline at the EU level the calculation of financial guarantees that operators have to establish before shipping “notified” waste abroad;
  • New and stricter conditions for shipments of waste for incineration or landfilling, so that they are only authorised in limited and well-justified cases, as they are the least preferred options for the management of waste.