Revision of the Waste Shipment Regulation – One size fits all export restrictions can end EU circular economy ambitions

The Waste Shipment Regulation (WSR) is a key piece of legislation in the move towards circular value chains. Burdensome procedures and lack of harmonisation rooted in the current regulation give an edge to linear value-chains, instead of boosting waste shipment for recycling and the marketing of raw materials from recycling (RMR).

However, the proposals released today by the European Commission pose major problems that will jeopardise Europe’s circular economy ambitions.

European recyclers entirely support the objective to better tackle illegal waste trade and exports of unprocessed waste to countries lacking the infrastructure for proper treatment. Such exports not only threaten human health and the environmental, they also are a major economic loss for Europe’s recycling industry.

Yet, by failing to distinguish between trash and RMR that meet strict quality specifications, the proposal falls short of levelling the playing field with extracted raw materials, which are not subject to any such constraints in EU law.

“Europe’s recycling industry is powered by SMEs and large companies, who directly employ over hundreds of thousands of Europeans, and indirectly many more. As stressed in the recent letter signed by 300 European national recycling federations and companies, subjecting RMR – which are still classified as non-hazardous waste – to export restrictions will, in the absence of secured end-markets for circular materials in the EU, pose a vital threat to European recyclers, be them SMEs or large multinational companies, and undermine the creation of green industrial jobs in Europe.” 


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