Plastics value chain calls for free movement of waste in the EU

Circular plastics transition requires urgent simplification of EU waste shipment rules

Plastics Europe calls for the Waste Shipment Regulation to be revised to support the EU’s 2050 circularity and net-zero targets. Current waste shipment rules hinder recycling plastic waste, resulting in too much waste being sent to landfill and incineration.

The EU Waste Shipment Regulation deals with the shipment of waste inside and outside of Europe. It is currently very burdensome to transport waste intra EU because of the complex rules, which in extreme cases result in companies not receiving approval for shipments for up to four years. Hindrances to waste shipment across the EU reduce the amount of input into recycling facilities and consequently the availability of recycled plastics for the plastics value chain and discourage further investment in recycling infrastructure and innovative new technologies, such as chemical recycling.

The revised Article 14 should aim to keep waste in the EU by harmonising administrative measures and speeding up the so-called “pre-consent” procedure, which would allow plastic waste to be shipped swiftly to compliant facilities for recycling. In this way, the European recycling market will be prioritised, waste will be treated in an environmentally sound way and the transition to a circular plastics economy accelerated.

Virginia Janssens, Managing Director of Plastics Europe said: “We urgently need access to as much recycled, high-quality plastic waste as possible to build a circular economy. We must avoid the absurd situation in which waste processing facilities only use waste from their own domestic markets, or indeed have to wait years for the approval of waste shipments from other EU member states. An EU Single Market for waste needs to be guaranteed.”

In April 2022, Plastics Europe launched “ReShaping Plastics: Pathways to a Circular, Climate Neutral Plastics System in Europe”, an independent report analysing the European plastics industry’s best transition pathways and levers towards net zero by 2050.

The report confirms the need for faster systemic change and that circularity is a key driver of system emissions reduction in the short to medium term. It further highlights the need for all up- and down-stream levers to be engaged, including mechanical and chemical recycling, the use of alternative raw materials such as bio feedstocks, and designing products for recycling and reuse. 

As one reaction to the report, Plastics Europe calls for a policy and regulatory framework which is stable, long-term-oriented, and consistent across Member States while supporting the industry’s need to innovate in a rapidly evolving world. Removing the hurdles within the EU Waste Shipment Regulation would be an important first step, and an example of the collaborative approach required to achieving lasting change.

18 October 2022