NO TIME TO WASTE: NGOs advocate for full ban on plastic waste exports from the EU as new report finds receiving countries’ recycling capacities overburdened
NGOs are calling for the European Parliament to vote for a full ban on extra-EU/ European Free Trade Association (EFTA) plastic waste exports and the full transposition of the Basel Convention plastic waste amendments within the EU.
Brussels – 16 January 2023
NGOs are calling for the European Parliament to vote for a full ban on extra-EU/ European
Free Trade Association (EFTA) plastic waste exports and the full transposition of the Basel Convention plastic waste amendments within the EU.
In addition to the environmental and human health harm brought about by the plastic waste
trade and the presence of illegal waste shipments facilitated by legal channels, recycling capacity displacement is another important facet factor highlighting why both such measures are necessary within the latest revision of the Waste Shipment Regulation.
The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and Rethink Plastic alliance (RPa) new
report “Plastic Waste Power Play: The offshoring and recycling displacement
involved in trying to recycle EU plastic waste” shows that EU plastic waste exports are
taking up limited plastic waste recycling capacity in recipient countries.
The vast majority of plastic has never been recycled, and the exporting of plastic waste from
high-income, high plastic consuming countries also helps perpetuate the linear status quo,
rather than prioritising the reduction of plastic consumption.
The European Parliament is set to vote on the Waste Shipment Regulation this week. The
Rethink Plastic Alliance and Break Free From Plastic movement therefore recommend that
the European Parliament Plenary supports the outcomes of the ENVI Committee vote,
including voting in favour of a full ban on plastic waste exports outside of the EU and EFTA,
in addition to a full implementation of the Basel Convention within the EU.
Major exporters of EU plastic waste such as Germany, the Netherlands, France, and
Belgium are not only prolific consumers of plastic, but also take advantage of the possibility
to export plastic waste in order to try and achieve their recycling targets.
However, the report highlights how this results in the recycling capacity of recipient
countries being inundated overwhelmed and the possibility of recycling their own
domestically- generated plastic waste is thus jeopardised,- resulting in recycling capacity
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, such as
Turkey, non-OECD countries, such as Malaysia, and certain EU Member States are
recipients of EU plastic waste and not only bear the brunt of significant environmental and
human health harm resulting from these shipments.
For example, in 2021, 35 per cent of the 1,135 million kilos of EU plastic waste exported went to Turkey alone. Imported plastic waste made up 78.7 per cent of Turkey’s recycling output volume, with 58 per cent of those imports coming from the EU. Simply put, without having to recycle the plastic waste of high-income countries, these countries would also have greater capacity to recycle domestically generated plastic waste.
“These findings seek to demonstrate yet another harmful outcome from this plastic waste
trade. When EU plastic waste is actually recycled within recipient countries, they displace
recycling capacity for domestically generated plastic waste and they facilitate the
continuation of high-levels of EU plastic consumption,” said Lauren Weir, Senior Ocean
Campaigner at the Environmental Investigation Agency.
The report also highlights that the exploitative power dynamics occurring globally within the
plastic waste trade occur internally within the Union as well and this is why adequate intra-
EU safeguarding policies – including the full transposition of the Basel Convention within the
Union – are crucial. RPa is very concerned by attempts to remove these vital measures,
which must be retained to ensure that the Basel Convention is correctly and legally applied
within the EU.
For more information contact:
Niamh Cullen, Communications Coordinator at the Rethink Plastic alliance
[email protected] +32 497 83 23 24
Lauren Weir, Senior Ocean Campaigner at the Environmental Investigation Agency
[email protected] +44 20 7354 7984
Theresa Mörsen, Waste Policy Officer at Zero Waste Europe