Council takes position on waste trade rules

Governments are about to approve their first-reading position on a revision of the EU's waste shipments regulation. A draft common position released by the council of ministers reveals the overall shape of the agreement. The text should be rubber stamped later this month clearing the way for a second reading to begin.

The goal of the revision is to bring the decade-old regulation into line with more recent international agreements. Proposals were first tabled by the European Commission last year.

Ministers were due to agree their position in June. They would have done so but for several minor but strongly defended objections from Italy, which have now been resolved.

A key issue for member states has been “ecodumping”, the risk of shipments being exported to exploit lower treatment standards. The draft common position gives authorities in the despatching member state more power to block shipments they think will not be dealt with to an equivalent standard in the importing country.

But in response to worries that this power could be abused, authorities of despatch will be required to explain much earlier and more clearly the grounds for blocking exports, with reference to national legislation.

Another disagreement centred on whether different streams of non-hazardous “green” waste should be classified as “amber” waste and thus subject to stricter controls. Here the council has opted to decide gradually on a case-by-case basis, with different mixtures to be classed as green or amber through an EU committee procedure.

Two other key issues were the treatment of military and animal wastes. The current rules apply to both types. The council now wants to exclude them.

However, safeguards to allow countries of transit to track military waste were added at the insistence of Greece. And in response to Austrian and German concerns, the Commission has been asked to consider beefing up separate rules on the treatment and export of animal wastes.

The European parliament will now reconsider the package. Its much more radical first reading vision for the regulation would ban outright many types of shipment. But it is unlikely to survive a second reading due to the increased post-election influence of the centre-right EPP grouping.

Republished with permission of Environment Daily

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