OECD: Progress in updating rules on international shipping of plastic waste

OECD countries have agreed to update rules on the export of hazardous plastic waste for recycling in line with international changes so that advance consent from destination countries will be required ahead of shipping. However, they did not reach consensus on updated arrangements for the export of non-hazardous plastic waste. OECD countries have agreed to review the situation for non-hazardous plastic waste in 2024. The OECD rules apply to all trade in waste destined for recovery operations between the Organisation’s 37 member countries.

While each OECD country can decide what controls to apply to shipments of non-hazardous plastic waste, they have committed to inform the OECD Secretariat of their decisions, and the list of controls applied will be made publicly available to ensure transparency. Non-hazardous plastic waste includes both pure single-polymer waste, where recycling leaves little residue, and mixed plastic waste where recycling leaves by-products that need to be properly disposed of. OECD members held a series of meetings between July 2019 and July 2020 to discuss whether and how to update rules on plastic waste shipped between member countries in light of amendments concerning plastic waste made in May 2019 to the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal, which governs waste shipments internationally.

Roughly 2% of the approximately 360 million tonnes of plastic waste produced globally each year is exported for treatment according to UN trade data. Total volumes of traded plastic waste plunged after China introduced import restrictions at the start of 2018, but shipments surged to alternative destinations that are not always well-equipped to manage the by-products of plastics recycling. The search for new recycling markets led to higher flows of plastic waste to Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, India and Turkey, an OECD member country. Other major OECD importers of plastic waste for recycling include the United States, Korea, Canada and EU countries.

Source: Recycling Magazine


Author: Kirsi Seppänen