Waste Shipment Regulation plenary vote in the European Parliament: almost all amendments proposed by MEPs agreed in voting
On 17 January 2023, the plenary vote took place in the European Parliament. Of the 158 amendments put forward by MEPs to the European Commission proposal of 18 November 2021, 7 were rejected and 154 accepted. All together, the amendments were to improve upon and toughen up the Commission proposal that itself improved upon and toughened up the much-amended Waste Shipment Regulation from 2013.
Improvements will be experienced by EU operators for intra-EU movements of waste for recovery and recycling. The promised electronic system should bring benefits when supplanting the ancient paper-based system. Record keeping and statistical analysis should be improved hopefully not to the detriment of confidential data protection. There is a fine line between applying the proximity principle for wastes, keeping them in the EU, and commercially disadvantaging trading partners outside the EU, denying them resources. Besides, the Parliament recognizes the need for improved recycling and waste management capacity within the EU, but does not address how that will be paid for.
Plastics are taking a beating with the intention to keep all plastic waste in the EU. “EU waste, EU responsibility” was the mantra. However, supplanting more recent EU classifications of plastics wastes with the slightly older Basel Convention codes will hamper intra-EU movements of plastic wastes to recycling and recovery facilities.
The enhanced checks on environmentally sound management of wastes outside the EU, in industrialized (OECD) countries and developing (non-OECD) countries, will without doubt become more stringent, furthermore by introducing international labor standards to advance social and economic justice. Concerns about exports included residual waste management after recycling and effect of imports on management of domestic generated wastes.
A point to note for everyone is the ever-tightening classification of wastes containing persistent organic pollutants and accompanying movement restrictions that will lead to pressure on local final disposal operations to irreversibly transform or destroy them.
The debate in plenary took place on Monday evening, where the main issues raised were the proposed prohibition on plastic waste exports, the intention to bolster the circular economy in the EU, the wish to keep valuable steel scrap in the EU in order to benefit the EU steel industry and disadvantage its competitors outside the EU, and quoting of overblown statistics on illegal shipments of 15-30%. In the debate, Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius recognized the increasing burden put on the Commission services by amendment requirements calling for reports, proposals and delegated acts.
Certain amendments adopted by the European Parliament will themselves need to be examined and likely changed by the Council of Ministers in order to comply with the EU's international obligations. In the coming weeks and months, BIR will be working with its member associations, and with willing member companies, to engage with their national Council experts to further improve these regulations.
BIR reiterates that it fully supports regulations that aim at the protection of both human health and the environment, but also supports that recyclables can be moved to facilities that are environmentally soundly managed, and that raw materials from recycling should continue to be transported to manufacturing industries in the global circular economy.