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FEAD: New export rules hinder plastic recycling

22.05.2019 − 

The Federation of Waste Management and Environmental Services (FEAD) has criticised the resolutions on waste plastics adopted by the parties to the Basel Convention in Geneva earlier this month. While understanding the motives for added controls on the exports of mixed or contaminated waste plastics, FEAD said it questioned the effectiveness of the measures in reducing marine pollution. The decision "ignores that recycled wastes are traded on a global commodity market", said FEAD president Jean-Marc Boursier. The umbrella group argues that "a loss of flows of exports outside the EU means less recycling within the EU".

According to FEAD, the decision at the Conference of the Parties would result in a major drop in the exports of plastic waste collected and sorted in the EU which would adversely affect existing separate collection and sorting systems and ultimately "downgrade the EU's recycling performance". Around 7.8 million tonnes of waste plastics are collected and sorted annually in the EU, said the umbrella group. Around 3 million tonnes of that material would no longer be considered fit for export under the new Basel Convention restrictions, according to FEAD. That material would have to be sent for energy recovery or landfilled.

There were no new markets that could compensate for the lost exports, Mr Boursier maintained. "The private waste management industry is ready to invest in improving the quality of plastic recyclates only if there is a market for recycled plastics," he said. Pull measures such as mandatory recycled content in products, reduced VAT and mandatory green public procurement could be used to create the "demand shock" needed to drive up the consumption of recyclate. It was necessary to ensure that imported products would also be covered by these rules, argued Mr Boursier.

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