17 Dec 2021

Publication of the long-awaited Waste Shipment Regulation proposal

On 17 November 2021, the European Commission adopted its long-awaited proposal for a new Regulation on waste shipments. In 2020, the EU exported 32.7 million tons of waste to non-EU countries (a 75% increase since 2004) of which half was directed to non-OECD countries. Moreover, currently only 12% of raw materials used in Europe come from recycling[1].

Under the revised Regulation on waste shipments, the Commission is proposing stronger rules on waste exports, a more efficient system for the circulation of waste for recycling or re-use in the EU, and determined action against illegal waste shipments.

The proposal includes the following measures:

 1) Facilitate waste shipments for reuse and recycling in the EU internal market: 

  • Closer alignment of waste shipment rules with the waste hierarchy: setting stricter rules for shipments of waste destined for landfilling or incineration in another Member State and strengthening links between the rules on waste shipments and Member States’ waste management plans. This is meant to incentivise shipments of waste for preparation for re-use and recycling.
  • Shift to digital solutions for issuing and exchanging the information and documents required for shipping waste between Member States.
  • Improvement of the fast-track procedure for shipments of waste: harmonised conditions would be set to facilitate shipments to recovery facilities, which are subject to pre-consents by the authorities, and to ensure that they are mutually recognised by all Member States.
  • More harmonised classification of waste shipped within the EU: the proposal suggests that criteria used to classify some waste streams (e.g. contamination thresholds) are agreed at the EU level. This aims to address the current fragmentation of the internal market where Member States have diverging views on whether specific waste streams should be subject to the EU’s notification regime, and consequently apply different rules for their shipment.

2) Stopping the export of waste challenges outside the EU:

  • Restricting export of all waste to non-OECD countries: EU exports of ‘green-listed’ waste should be authorised only for those non-OECD countries that explicitly notify the EU of their willingness to receive EU waste exports and demonstrate their ability to treat this waste in an environmentally sustainable manner.
  • Step up the monitoring of EU waste exported to OECD countries: OECD countries have to undergo a screening process with respect to their waste management systems. If there are concerns that certain exports are likely to cause environmental damage in the country of destination, the European Commission might, ultimately, suspend such exports of waste.
  • Require EU companies to show that their exports of waste are sustainable: all companies exporting waste outside the EU will have to conduct third-party audits in the facilities to where they ship waste to ensure that those facilities are operating in an environmentally sound manner.
  • Establish clear criteria to prevent waste from being falsely exported as ‘used goods’: this will ensure that items (e.g. end-of-life vehicles, waste batteries or textile waste) which are often labelled as used commodities, are not exported outside the OECD, where they are likely to create sizeable environmental and health damage.

3) Addressing illegal shipments of waste more effectively:

  • Establishing an EU ‘waste shipment enforcement group’ to increase cooperation and coordination against illegal shipments of waste.
  • Empowering the Commission to support transnational investigations by EU Member States on waste trafficking (European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) and Eurojust).
  • Strengthening the existing rules on administrative penalties against illegal shipment of waste.


  • 17 November 2021: Publication of the Commission proposal for a new Regulation on waste shipments


  • 19 November 2021 - 17 January 2022: A consultation on the European Commission proposal is open until 17 January 2022.
  • The publication of the Commission proposal marks the start of the ordinary legislative procedure. The European Parliament and Member States in Council will now review, possibly amend, and eventually approve the text.

[1] European Commission Communication accompanying the proposal for a new Regulation on waste shipments