EU bans plastic waste exports to poorer countries

“This is an important milestone in fighting plastic pollution, transitioning shifting to a circular economy, and achieving the aims of the European Green Deal.”

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Earlier this week, the European Union’s executive branch announced new measures to go into effect on January first for plastic waste exports. 

These new rules are part of the bloc’s Circular Economy Action Plan and European Green Deal, reports Common Dreams.  

One notable new rule being implemented at the start of 2021 is a ban on some plastic exports to poorer countries. 

Bloc members may no longer export plastic waste that is hazardous or hard to recycle to nations that are not a part of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development ((OECD), and the export of clean, non-hazardous waste to non-OECD countries will only be allowed under certain conditions laid out by the importer, Jessica Corbett of Common Dreams writes. 

The large quantity of plastic sent to the Global South is often not being properly treated. A lot of this waste ends up either in landfill, the ocean, or being incinerated because these countries often don’t have the capacity to sustainably treat the waste, euronews states. 

“These new rules send a clear message that in the E.U. we are taking responsibility for the waste we generate. This is an important milestone in fighting plastic pollution, transitioning shifting to a circular economy, and achieving the aims of the European Green Deal,” says Virginijus Sinkevičius, commissioner for environment, oceans, and fisheries. 

According to Deutsche Welle, the moves follow China’s 2018 ban on plastic imports and statements from environmentalists that waste was ending up in other Asian nations, such as Malaysia, and then being dumped into ocean waters.

Even E.U. exports within the OECD that is deemed hazardous plastic waste or “hard to recycle” will require authorization from both the recipient and dispatching nation.

“Approximately 6.3 billion tons of plastic waste have been generated since 1950, of which 12 percent has been incinerated, less than 10 percent recycled and nearly 80 percent either discarded or landfilled,” says Sinkevicius. 

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