The terms of a trade policy being scrutinized by the European Parliament are likely to block cross-border trade in recyclable materials from this region. Many panelists at the European Paper and Plastic Recycling Conference 2022, held in mid-November in Rotterdam, said the recycling industry needs to raise its voice to grab the attention of decision-makers policies.
Marc Ehrlich, CEO of Swiss-based trading company VIPA Lausanne, said the waste regulations being scrutinized by the European Parliament’s environment committee are not specifically a waste export ban. of paper and plastic, “but it will become much more difficult to export”.
As currently drafted, the new regulations would require a country receiving recovered paper from Europe, such as India, to “demonstrate that it has a recycling system similar to Europe”, said Ehrlich. There is little clarity as to who does the assessments of foreign systems or what a theoretical audit would look like, Ehrlich saying, “We don’t have the criteria yet.”
Ehrlich urged delegates to contact their representatives in the European Parliament, including the roughly 50 members of the Environment Committee. “Tell them your recycling system [in Europe] going to collapse, because you don’t know what you’re doing,” he advised his fellow recyclers to tell elected officials directly. “You have to do it today; no one has done it before you.”
Ehrlich also said the paper and metals sectors should be removed from these waste guidelines: “Remove non-problematic materials: recovered paper and metals,” he said.
“Sorry, but plastic won’t be welcomed. They only have plastic in their minds,” Ehrlich said of those calling for export bans.
Shailesh Gothal of Belgium-based Gemini Corp. said more plastic waste is staying in Europe, giving recyclers there an “opportunity to build capacity”. With a current plastic recycling rate of 16% in Europe, “we have a lot to do,” Gothal added.
Shipping lines also appear to be preparing for an end to large-scale plastic waste shipping, Gothal said, with lines reducing space allocations for plastic waste leaving European ports.
Robert Powell of UK-based Miro Logistics said the global container port congestion that characterized much of 2021 and the first half of 2022 is “regressing”.
Rates charged by shippers have also fallen by 50% to 70% and “the market continues to soften,” Powell said. Recyclers shipping containers to the Far East have access to “nearly unlimited” capacity, he added, and container bookings to India are “not a problem at the moment”.
Powell said shippers of plastic waste are “better off if you have other products as well” to ship. He also recommended that plastic exporters get the destination shipping office to “accept” to allay shipping companies’ fears of container abandonment.
Panelists, including moderator Simon Ellin of the UK-based Recycling Association, agreed that the pending waste directive threatening trade opportunities in Europe is linked in part to recyclers and traders using the word ‘waste’ attached to the products they market, such as ‘waste paper.’ Powell said: ‘The word ‘waste’ is not the right word to use. When I talk to shipping companies, I use the word ‘recyclables’ »
The 2022 Paper & Plastics Recycling Conference Europe event was held on November 15-16 at the Hilton Rotterdam in the Netherlands.