Local and regional politicians from across Europe have unanimously called for the EU to introduce far tighter rules on the shipment of waste. The Committee of the Regions – the EU's assembly of local and regional authorities – adopted a report that backs plans to amend the existing EU waste shipments regulation. Led by Cllr Paula Baker (UK/ALDE), the Committee argues that changes to the current EU regulation must set far more stringent shipping inspections, introduce consistent controls across all EU member states, and increase the power of public authorities.
Though the current EU Waste Shipments Regulation passed in 1996 offers guidance and control on waste shipments, research indicates that as much as 25% is still being illegally sent from the EU to developing countries contravening EU and international laws. The European Commission published a proposal last year that seeks to update the Regulation which has been under review by the Committee. During her speech at the Committee's plenary on 30 January where her opinion was unanimously adopted, Cllr Baker from Basingstoke and Deane Council welcomed the Commission proposals pointing out that the illegal shipment was having dire environmental and social consequences for recipient countries whilst also stifling EU recycling efforts: "When you see what the impact the shipping of illegal waste can have on communities and countries, you can only feel outraged. We simply must do all we can to put a stop to it. Taking concrete steps to renew and reinforce already existing EU regulation is a positive step forward".
The Committee argues the current Regulation is outdated and inadequate offering no explanation on how inspections should be carried out. As the shipment of waste is an international activity, without proper enforcement and standardised measurements across the EU it is difficult to ensure consistency with some member states lagging behind. The Committee backs the Commission proposition to introduce an EU-wide definition of obligatory content and would like to see measurable targets set across the Union to ensure that authorities can review the impact of its inspection plans.
It also shares the concerns that releasing inspection plans could be counterproductive and actually support those involved in illegal waste activities. Instead, the Committee suggests, only strategic guidance should be published rather than information held at an operational level. To improve coordination efforts and enforcement, the Committee proposes introducing a "single window" making all inspections available to relevant authorities. It was also crucial that local and regional authorities were involved in its design.
Local and regional authorities should also be allowed to ask for proof from shipments where the waste will end and also suggests that information on end destination be made public. Introducing a standardised data system across the Union for public authorities would also improve controls which, it is estimated, could save businesses in the EU as much as €40m euros a year in administrative costs. The Committee also calls for the launch of a platform where member states and public authorities could share best practise on the planning and management of waste shipments. To increase the quantity and quality of inspections, the EU should ensure the European Union Network for the Implementation and Enforcement of Environmental Law (IMPEL) – an NGO that oversees the implementation and enforcement of environmental law – is sufficiently funded.
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