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News article20 May 2024Directorate-General for Environment3 min read

New Regulation on waste shipments enters into force

Since 2004, waste exports from the EU to non-EU countries have increased by 72%.

Waste being loaded on ships.

New rules to ensure the EU takes greater responsibility for its waste entered into force on Monday 20 May 2024. 

The new Waste Shipments Regulation sets out stricter rules on the export of waste to non-EU countries. The Regulation will also increase traceability and facilitate the shipments of waste for recycling in the EU and beyond.  It will support the circular economy and ensure that waste exported from the EU is treated in an environmentally sustainable way.

Stricter control of waste exports

Waste exports from the EU to non-EU countries have increased by 72% since 2004, amounting to 35 million tons per year in 2023. 49% of waste exported from the EU goes to non-OECD countries. Under the new Regulation, exports of EU waste to non-OECD countries will only be allowed if these countries inform the European Commission that they are willing to import waste and demonstrate that they have the ability to manage it in a sustainable manner. These new requirements will apply from 21 May 2027. 

In addition, considering the global problems linked to soaring amounts of plastic waste and the treatment challenges, the export of plastic waste to non-OECD countries will be prohibited from 21 November 2026 for a period of 2.5 years, after which those countries may start receiving plastic waste subject to the strict rules of the regulation.

The Commission will also monitor waste exports to OECD countries and take action if such exports create environmental problems in the country of destination. In addition, all EU companies that export waste outside the EU will have to ensure that the facilities receiving their waste are subject to an independent audit showing that those facilities manage this waste in an environmentally sound manner. With this measure, the EU aims to prevent environmental degradation and pollution in non-EU countries caused by plastic waste generated in the EU.

Easier shipment and recycling of waste within the EU

The new Regulation also sets out modern digitalised procedures to facilitate and better track the shipments of waste within the EU. This should make it easier to ship waste for recycling within the EU. The circulation of waste for recycling and preparing for re-use between Member States is key for the EU's transition to a circular economy and the security of supply of raw materials.

Under the new Regulation, the procedures for shipping waste will become digital from 21 May 2026. Fast track procedures for certain eligible facilities designated by the Member States (“pre-consented facilities”) will also be made easier and more efficient. Additionally, there will be requirements to improve the transparency of shipments of waste within the EU. This will encourage waste to re-enter the circular economy across the EU, without lowering the necessary level of control for such shipments.

Tackling waste trafficking

The new Regulation also provides for stronger enforcement and cooperation in fighting waste trafficking. The new law will complement the new Environmental Crime Directive, which also entered into force on 20 May 2024.

Waste trafficking is one of today's most serious environmental crimes. It damages the environment and, often linked to organised crime, it also harms legitimate businesses.

To step up the EU response against waste trafficking, the new Regulation facilitates closer cooperation between EU Member States and provides more deterrent sanctions against criminals involved in illicit waste trade. The Commission will be able to act on the ground to support investigations by Member States on transnational crime linked to waste trafficking, with the direct involvement of the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF).

“The new regulation on waste shipments will ensure that when the EU exports waste, this waste arrives at destinations where it can be managed sustainably and support a clean and circular economy. The new regulation is an important part of the green transition in which waste will more and more be turned into valuable resources. It will make shipments smoother, easier and digital, facilitating the growth of the recycling industry and reducing pollution from bad management and illegal trafficking of waste.”

Virginijus Sinkevičius, Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries


Publication date
20 May 2024
Directorate-General for Environment

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