The European Commission has announced a ban on all non-recyclable plastic waste exports to developing nations, which came into force on 1st January 2021.

The new rules, which apply to exports, imports and shipments of plastic waste around the EU, aim to curb the problem of illegal waste dumping in developing countries, as much of this waste ends up in landfill, the ocean, or is incinerated due to a lack of recycling infrastructure in these countries.

Under the new EU rules, only ‘clean’ plastic waste which can be recycled can be exported to non-OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries. In addition, stricter measures have been placed on the export of plastic waste from the EU to OECD countries and within the EU.

Every year, Europeans generate 25 million tonnes of plastic waste, but less than a third (30 per cent) of it is being recycled. Across the world, plastics make up around 85 per cent of beach litter.

“These new rules send a clear message that in the EU we are taking responsibility for the waste we generate,” says Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevičius.

The move to restrict this type of waste exports contributes to the EU plastics strategy, which aims to reduce plastic usage and encourage better sorting and recycling across the continent.

The UK’s equivalent is the Environment Bill which contains similar policies towards plastic including proposing legislation to protect poorer countries from becoming a dumping ground for the UK’s plastic waste.

The Bill is aimed to replace the EU legislation and embed environmental accountability into any new legislation passed, but as it made its way through the House of Commons, it was delayed by the outbreak of coronavirus and lockdown.

As it stands, the Environment Bill has been pushed back a third time and, although a report has been created at the Committee Stage, where a small group scrutinise the Bill and compile a report to go back to the House of Commons, no date has currently been set for further debate and amendments by the House of Commons.

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