EU bans export of plastic waste to third world countries

After years of political debates and preparations, the European Union will impose new restrictions on the export of waste plastic to developing countries. The new trade and export rules are part of a broader EU package aimed at reducing the use of plastic as packaging material.

The new legislation, which was overwhelmingly adopted in the European Parliament on Tuesday, will make the ban on the export of plastic waste to non-OECD countries fully effective from January 1, 2025. This move is intended to ensure that plastic waste is processed within the EU, rather than exported to countries with less stringent environmental standards.

The aim is also to promote the circular economy and reduce the use of plastic through recycling and reuse, and a ban on single-use plastic packaging. 

Dutch MEP Bas Eickhout (GroenLinks) said in response: “We have known for years that European exports of plastic cause major environmental problems in other countries, which often do not have the capacity to process that plastic. After a long struggle, there is now an end in sight and this practice will stop.” 

The European Commission previously proposed stopping plastic exports to developing countries, but left room for exports to more developed countries. Eickhout: “In practice, however, we see that a lot of plastic is shipped to countries such as Turkey and further from there. This is how we still transfer our problems. We have therefore built in checks in the new law that ensure that this also stops.”

The legislation is part of a broader package of measures that should reduce the use of plastic and encourage reuse. “If we are serious about a circular economy, we cannot continue dumping plastic in other countries. This requires more effort on recycling, but also provides opportunities. Because used plastic will soon not be waste, but one of the new raw materials in a sustainable economy.” 

The EU countries previously agreed to the deal, so that the legislation will come into effect later this year. The move has been welcomed by environmental groups, who hope it will help reduce plastic pollution in the oceans and reduce pressure on the environment.