180,000 sign petition for a ban on EU plastic waste trade exports

Today, the Rethink Plastic alliance, the Environmental Investigation Agency, the #BreakFreeFromPlastic movement, Eko, and WeMove have published the results of their joint petition urging the European Union to ban plastic waste exports to both non-OECD and OECD countries.

Over 180,000 individuals have signed the joint petition in support of this call for a ban on EU plastic waste export, to end the unethical and exploitative practice of the EU’s current plastic waste trade.

The EU produces more plastic waste than European recycling capacities can handle, as well as a lot of unrecyclable plastic waste, which it exports to other countries, along with all the health impacts and environmental damage that comes with it. The EU is one of the largest exporters of plastic waste in the world. Last year the EU exported more than one million tonnes of its plastic waste. 51% of it went to lower-income countries like Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia and Thailand in Asia, 33% went to Türkiye.

Despite recipient countries placing import restrictions, bans and protections, EU plastic waste exports are still being illegally shipped, burned and dumped or take up limited domestic recycling capacity in recipient countries. This causes significant health problems, especially for workers and local communities and harms the environment.

In early 2023, the EU Parliament adopted its negotiating position for a revised law to overhaul EU waste shipments and endorsed a prohibition on exporting plastic waste beyond the EU and EFTA. Subsequently, the Waste Shipment Regulation has advanced to the Trilogue phase of the legislative process, where negotiations between the European Parliament and the Council are taking place to reach a consensus on the final version of the revised Waste Shipment Regulation.

Unfortunately, the Council (representing EU member countries) did not demonstrate a similar level of commitment towards preventing further harm caused by EU plastic waste exports in their position. As a result, is now subject to negotiation between the European Parliament, the Council and the European Commission.

This collective petition carries a potent message directed at the Council and EU Environmental Ministers, underscoring the substantial public backing for putting an end to the EU’s plastic waste exports as the last trilogue meeting in November 2023 approaches, alongside the third round of negotiations for a Global Plastics Treaty.

“The negative impact of EU plastic waste exports has been clearly evidenced and a ban is in line with EU international obligations. This unethical practice should never have happened in the first place – let’s put an end to it now.” – Lauren Weir, Senior Campaigner, Environmental Investigation Agency

The transboundary movement of plastic waste is not a commercial venture, but rather a form of pollution transfer from the global north to the global south. This practice is colonialism and pollutes the environment by disrupting the waste management infrastructure of the receiving countries. This practice can only be stopped by a total ban.” – Sedat Gündoğdu, Microplastic Research Group, Türkiye

“What our petition shows is that there is strong support from the public to make plastic waste exports from the EU a thing of the past. We are raising a signal to EU countries and emphasizing the vital role that a ban on EU plastic waste exports can play in mitigating global plastic pollution and ending the practice of waste colonialism.” – Justine Maillot, European Coordinator, Break Free From Plastic

“Africa is not yet free from colonialism; colonialism continues to manifest itself in the form of waste trade that allows for the importation of toxic and non-recyclable waste into the African continent from Global North countries. All countries need to take responsibility for how they produce, manage and dispose of their waste and find better solutions for their waste instead of externalising the problem. BFFP Africa joins the collective voices demanding a full and complete ban on plastic waste exports from the EU. Africa is not a dumping ground!” – Merrisa Naidoo, Africa Plastic Campaigner, Break Free From Plastic

Rethink Plastic