Plastic waste from the EU will no longer be allowed to end up anywhere in the world in the future. Representatives of the EU states agreed with negotiators from the European Parliament in Brussels on a ban on the export of plastic waste to countries outside the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), as the EU Parliament announced. This means that plastic waste exports to Africa or large parts of Asia are initially prohibited.

However, as the EU states write in a statement, countries outside the OECD will have the opportunity to apply for exemptions five years after the new rules come into force. To do this, however, waste management in these countries must meet certain requirements.

With the export ban on plastic waste, the EU legislators primarily want to prevent environmental destruction in third countries caused by waste from the EU, the EU Commission said about the agreement. “The EU will finally take responsibility for its plastic waste,” said EU parliamentarian Pernille Weiss from the Christian Democratic EPP group. According to Parliament, the regulation should apply two and a half years after the law comes into force. Parliament and EU states still have to formally approve the agreement.

In addition, there will be generally stricter requirements for waste exports in the future. At the end of 2021, the EU Commission proposed tougher rules for waste exports in order to better protect the environment and health. Other regular waste should only be able to be exported to non-OECD countries if they treat it in an environmentally friendly manner and also comply with international labor standards and workers’ rights. According to the parliamentary announcement, the EU Commission will draw up a list of such recipient countries, which will be updated at least every two years.

According to the Commission, the EU exported around 33 million tonnes of waste in 2020. A large part of the waste went to Turkey, but also to countries outside the OECD such as India, Indonesia and Pakistan. Researchers estimate that between 4.8 and 12.7 million tons of plastic waste end up in the oceans globally every year. That’s roughly equivalent to a truckload per minute.