Illegal trafficking of waste

Illegal trafficking of waste

On 4 November 2020, Italian Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) Eleonora Evi and Ignazio Corrao of the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance posed a written parliamentary question to the European Commission:

“A recent report by Interpol has analysed criminal trends in the global plastic waste market since January 2018, when China closed its doors to plastic waste imports.

According to the report, there has been a significant increase in waste trafficking, waste fires, illegal landfills and misdeclarations of waste over the past two years.

The illegal shipment of waste has concerned mainly the Czech Republic and Romania. In Romania, in particular, the cement industry has been illegally burning waste imported from Italy, in what is probably a mafia-run operation.

In the coming days, the Commission will have to ratify the new amendments to the Basel Convention concerning shipments between countries of certain types of plastic waste, which will enter into force on 1 January 2021.

1. Will the Commission confirm the notification and prior authorisation requirement for certain types of waste in order to prevent them from being treated illegally?

2. What further action does it intend to take to stop the illegal trafficking of waste, which often ends up being used as a ‘secondary solid fuel’ in cement works, having devastating effects on the health of citizens?”

On 22 January 2021, Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius responded on behalf of the European Commission stating: “Waste trafficking is a priority for EU policy on combating organised crime.

The Commission is working closely with enforcement agencies from Member States, the EU Network for the Implementation and Enforcement of Environmental Law, Europol and international organisations to tackle illegal waste management activities and illegal waste shipments.

The Commission notably supports cross-border investigations and cooperation between enforcement agencies in its Member States. The European Anti-Fraud Office has launched several operations targeting illicit exports of waste from Member States to third countries, and has strengthened its cooperation with key Asian countries to monitor suspicious movements of waste.

The EU provides significant financial support to projects that target waste trafficking, focusing on waste streams like plastic or e-waste. The Interpol’s report mentioned in the question was supported by EU funding.

The Commission is reviewing the EU rules on waste shipment, thereby looking into ways to further reinforce the EU response to waste trafficking and strengthen controls on shipments of mixed municipal waste. The Commission will also look at the topic of illegal waste trafficking in its review of Directive on environmental crime in 2021.

With regard to the new amendments of the Basel Convention on plastic waste, the EU corresponding rules entered into force since 1 January 2021.

This will result in more rigorous controls on the shipments of plastic waste within the EU, as well as in a ban on the export of hazardous and unsorted plastic waste to third countries other than the members of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.”


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