FEAD cautions against Norway Basel amendment on plastic waste

A proposed amendment to the Basel Convention tabled by Norway has been criticised by the European Federation of Waste Management and Environmental Services (FEAD).

The organisation that represents Europe’s waste management companies, cautioned in a statement that the amendment, while well-intentioned, is ‘bound to miss its own objective’ and could ‘hinder the development of an EU market for plastic waste’.

FEAD cautions against Norway Basel amendment on plastic waste
The port of Gdynia in Poland.

The proposal itself, submitted in June by the government of Norway to the Basel Convention Secretariat, would see scrap plastics added to Annex II of the Basel Convention, meaning the material would join a list of wastes for ‘special consideration’ requiring notification by exporting countries and consent by importing countries prior to export in a move designed to to address the ocean plastic crisis.

‘Confusing’ changes

The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal, which came into force in 1992, governs the shipment and trade of hazardous wastes.

According to Norway’s proposed amendment, plastic waste would fall under three categories in the Basel Convention:

  1. Single polymer uncontaminated plastic waste (a revised entry B3010 in Annex IX of the Convention);
  2. Plastic waste requiring special consideration, for all plastics not covered by entry AXXXX of Annex VIII or B3010 of Annex IX (new entry Y48 in Annex II); and
  3. Hazardous plastic waste (a new entry AXXXX in Annex VIII).

As part of the entry B3010, any waste that does not comply with the B3010 has to be regarded as ‘amber listed’, requiring exporters to apply the notification procedure. The proposal adds three new criteria to the B3010: mixing/contamination is forbidden if it ‘prevents the recycling of the waste in an environmentally sound manner’, plastic waste is limited to ‘R3 – operation’ (the Convention’s definition of recycling of organic substances not used as solvents, excluding recovery operations) and recycling operations may ‘only involve minimal further mechanical preparatory treatment processes, if any’.

FEAD provides responses to these proposals in a position paper on Norway’s proposal, which labels the forbidding of mixing and contamination as ‘confusing, subject to variable interpretation and to legal uncertainty’ and ‘strongly opposes’ limiting the use of the ‘green list’ procedure to recycling operations and excluding other recovery operations, meaning exporters would have to provide notification to export plastic waste destined for other recovery operations, which FEAD says could lead to an ‘accurate waste congestion’ for countries with limited recycling and recovery capacity, due partly to the time needed to approve a notification.

FEAD’s position paper also provides a number of objectives to assist the development of a European plastics waste market. It calls for:

  • A robust impact assessment since the Norwegian proposal could negatively impact plastic recycling and recovery;
  • Complementing measures to stimulate European demand for recycled materials and investment in recycling capabilities (e.g packaging and plastics from WEEE (waste electrical and electronic equipment);
  • Sufficient lead in time to allow new recycling infrastructure to be built;
  • A clear commitment by the EU to limit delays for notified shipments; and
  • Consideration given to intra-EU trade.

FEAD has previously made high-level representations in order to push for simplified waste material trade rules and a stimulation of the European secondary material market, calling on the European Commission to simplify the Waste Shipment Regulation (WSR) and harmonise enforcement across EU member states in November, and calling on EU member states to implement an appropriate framework of ‘pull’ mechanisms to complement recycling targets in the Circular Economy Package in October of last year.

FEAD’s statement in full

“We firmly believe that this proposal is bound to miss its own objective: to combat marine litter, countries need to work on improving and expanding their respective waste management and particularly recycling capabilities, firmly combat illegal dumping.

“To reduce the amounts of refuse going into the world’s oceans we need an effective enforcement of waste management legislation, the expansion of waste treatment infrastructure, dissemination of information and best practice, as well as educational measures.

“The Basel Convention currently consists of two main procedures for waste shipment, which are called ‘amber listed’ and ‘green listed’. The government of Norway’s proposal would introduce new waste category for plastics under the Basel Convention.

“Presently, plastics for recycling and plastics for recovery fall under the same category B3010. This category does not require a notification procedure. Norway would like for plastics destined for recovery to fall under the ‘Y48’ category, which does require a notification procedure.

"Norway’s proposal could unfortunately hinder the development of an EU market for plastic waste, by raising the administrative burden and the costs of shipping plastic waste, or by making them simply impossible. Therefore, the new entries need to be clear to avoid confusion and varying interpretations.

"FEAD is also opposed to a system that restricts the use of the B3010 entry to plastic recycling under the green procedure, excluding plastic waste for recovery operations."

You can read FEAD’s position paper in full on the organisation’s website.

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