By A&D Manager in Geminor Poland, Vojciech Oset
By A&D Manager in Geminor Poland, Vojciech Oset

These are the new rules for waste shipments in Europe

January 3, 2022
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The proposed revision of the Waste Shipment Regulation (WSR), recently published by the European Commission, sets stricter requirements for the international import and export of waste. The new WSR will not only put more responsibility on waste companies, but also create turbulence in the European waste market.

In the coming year, the proposal for a new WSR Regulation will be discussed in the European Parliament, as well as by Member States' representatives in the Council of Ministers. The final revision is expected to be implemented only around four years from now. The new regulations are intended to create practical simplifications in the implementation of waste shipments between OECD countries, but will at the same time tighten the requirements for a number of the actors involved.

There are several reasons why the current Regulation, which was implemented as far back as 2006, is now being reviewed. The main objective is to simplify waste shipments in the EU's internal market, thereby developing a functioning circular economy in line with the EU's Green Deal.

Another important objective is to reduce the export of waste to non-OECD countries. In recent years, most of the EU's paper and cardboard, plastic and textile waste has been shipped to both OECD and non-OECD countries. Under the new proposal, exports of green-listed waste will only be allowed to third countries that officially accept to receive the waste and can demonstrate sustainable recycling of the waste.

The regulation is also intended to intensify efforts against illegal shipments and waste crime by, among other things, establishing stricter penalties for illegal activities.

Digital development

In practice, changes will be made to facilitate transport procedures and create more EU standards for operators to adhere to. For example, common levels for unwanted content in waste shipments will be introduced to facilitate the classification of waste. This will hopefully make it easier to interpret the rules in all countries.

The proposal also includes a new and more streamlined application procedure for waste shipments, including a fully digitalized Transfrontier Shipments (TFS) system that should lead to faster document exchange and better monitoring - leading to fewer errors.

Higher requirements for waste transport

The new WSR regulations are likely to have a relatively large impact on how we export and transport waste. One example is that the notifier will have to account to a greater extent for non-recyclable waste that is exported. This includes being able to document that the waste cannot be recycled properly in the country of origin.

Another point is the proposed extension of the mandate to all EU countries: If their local waste market is unable to provide sustainable recovery or recycling of imported waste, authorities are given more power to reject a shipment of waste.

By implementing these measures, the European Commission hopes to increase the treatment of waste in the country of origin, reduce long-distance shipments and further develop the waste hierarchy - reuse, recycling, energy recovery and landfill.

How will the regulation impact?

Less exports to non-OECD countries will certainly lead to more green-listed waste in the European market. More waste is also likely to lead to price pressure and more competition, which could make Europe the market for waste receivers and recyclers. The current cost advantage of landfilling therefore needs to be regulated, an issue the EU is currently working to address.

Moreover, a new regulation for cross-border waste shipments could create new business opportunities and further develop national markets, forcing industry players to upgrade their sorting and treatment expertise to meet the demands of a circular economy. In the wake of this, the development of ever new and specially designed fractions will accelerate.

Of course, it is a bit too early to conclude on the impact the forthcoming Regulation will have on the waste market in the future. Nevertheless, it seems certain that the procedures related to the international shipment of green-listed waste will become simpler and more efficient. "In any case, the Waste Shipment Regulation is designed to increase the control and sustainability requirements for all international waste operators. This is likely to increase the need for specialized expertise in TFS applications and international waste shipments in an increasingly complex market.