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EU bans export of plastic waste to poor countries

The EU approved on Friday, November 17, a provisional political agreement to update the Waste Shipment Regulation. In it, the 27 countries that make up the European Union will no longer be able to send their plastic waste to poorer countries that are not members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

However, this agreement still needs to be formally approved by both the council representing the EU Member States and the EU Parliament for it to enter into force.

Only one third of plastic waste in Europe is recycled and half of the plastic collected for recycling is exported for treatment in countries outside the EU.

Objectives of the agreement

The EU has agreed to extend the objectives of the Regulation to include climate neutrality and the achievement of the circular economy and zero pollution.

The agreement covers shipments of waste within the EU (with transit through third countries), import and export of waste to and from third countries, and shipments of waste in transit through the European Union going from one third country to another.

Shipments within the EU

The interim agreement prohibits shipments of all waste destined for disposal within the EU, except for strictly authorized or highly justified shipments. On the other hand, shipments within the EU are still allowed for waste recovery following the least stringent procedure.

The ban therefore raises the challenge of what to do with plastic waste within the EU. According to 2018 data, the EU generated 61.8 million tons of plastic waste, of which only 29.7% was recycled, 42.5% was incinerated and 27.8% was landfilled.

Thus, the European Union will have to strengthen its internal waste management capacities, promoting reduction at source, eco-design, circular economy and technological innovation. In addition, it will have to ensure compliance with environmental standards and transparency in the tracking and traceability of plastic waste.

What this agreement implies for the future

This interim agreement is an important step in addressing the plastic pollution crisis. However, additional measures are needed to reduce plastic waste generation, improve recycling, prevent pollution and protect the environment.

This implies a paradigm shift in the way we produce, consume and manage resources. It also implies greater awareness and responsibility on the part of all sectors of society. This is the only way to achieve sustainable management of plastic waste and a more sustainable future.

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