The European Commission has opened a consultation on the adoption of amendments (currently available in draft form) to the European Union’s law on the transboundary shipment of waste. These amendments are intended to allow the EU to give effect to recent changes to the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal (the Convention) which significantly extend the Convention’s scope in relation to plastic waste.

Plastic waste has emerged as a significant environmental issue in recent years, not only due to its growing accumulation in the environment generally but also due to companies in so-called developed countries shipping hard-to-recycle plastic wastes to less economically developed countries. This has led to the build-up of plastic waste with, for the moment, little prospect of being recycled or otherwise sustainably managed, in several countries including Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia.

The changes to the Convention were agreed by the Convention’s governing body, the Conference of the Parties, in a May 2019 decision (the Decision). In broad terms, the changes provide for, via amendment to Annexes II and VIII of the Convention, the inclusion of most types of plastic waste in the Convention’s ‘prior informed consent’ (PIC) mechanism. The only types of plastic waste excluded from the PIC mechanism are those which are destined for recycling, presumed not to be hazardous, and, due to their composition, easily recyclable. The specific types of plastic wastes which fall within each Annex are set out in the Decision.

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