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Commission proposes a Regulation to control exports of recyclable waste to third countries

The European Commission has agreed a proposal for a Regulation on the shipment of waste destined for recycling outside the EU. The aim of the proposal is to ensure that third countries have a greater say over waste imported from the EU without interfering with legitimate trade...

The European Commission has agreed a proposal for a Regulation on the shipment of waste destined for recycling outside the EU. The aim of the proposal is to ensure that third countries have a greater say over waste imported from the EU without interfering with legitimate trade in recyclable products. The result of the proposal will be to make EU rules on exports of recycling waste even safer than international law requires. The draft Regulation only deals with so-called "green" waste, which presents no environmental hazard and which can be recycled by third countries with suitable recycling facilities. It does not cover hazardous waste, nor does it cover waste destined for stockpiling, landfill, incineration or any other forms of disposal. Existing EU rules distinguish between waste destined for disposal and waste for recovery (Council Regulation EC No 259/93 of 1.2.1993). The aim of these rules, which entered into force on 6 May 1994, is to ensure that the EU respects its international obligations, notably the Basle Convention on the import, export and disposal of hazardous waste. Shipments of "green" waste for recovery are generally excluded from the existing Regulation, largely because the OECD considers that they do not normally present a risk to the environment if recycled properly in the country of destination. However, the EU does not wish to impose this view on third countries, particularly those outside the OECD. The Commission's new proposal will therefore give the EU's non-OECD trading partners the chance to say whether they wish to receive "green" waste from EU industries. If a country declines, then the new Regulation would ban exports to that country, except in cases where a one-off shipment was specifically approved. If a recipient country does wish to buy waste, then trade will be free to go ahead, but only if the EU company exporting the waste can prove that the recipient country has adequate recycling facilities. The following products are included in the "green" waste list: - Textiles; - Agro-food products; - Iron and steel; - Non-ferrous metals; - Rubber and used tyres; - Paper; - Plastics; - Leather; - Wood; - Cork; - Glass; - Ships for shipbreaking. All of these products can circulate freely between EU countries. They can also currently be exported to all third countries free of restrictions. The Commission believes that this proposal will give recipient States a genuine chance to control imports of waste and their capacity to recycle it. By drawing a clear line between what may and may not be exported and to where, the proposal will also alleviate countries subjected to undue pressure from richer nations seeking markets for their waste products. The EU would make sure that its procedure for consulting third countries was clear, unambiguous and easily amendable if they chose to change their position at a later date. The provisions of the Regulation will be reviewed by the Commission after two years.

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