A review of waste and recycling legislation

Legislación residuos y reciclaje

The sector of waste and recycling count with a high level of regulation, such in national level and international. Around this year has been developing several updates about the legislation that exist nowadays, at the same time has been introducing news normatives. All this basically in big part for the impact of global pandemic of the COVID-19. 

In this new article of our blog of Grupo SPR, we are going to give a quick review for the most important changes about waste and recycling legislation, since the prohibition of China to import solid waste till the presentation of the new law of waste in Spain. 

A sector in constant change and evolution 

The increasing worries about the effect of weather change has given rise to what we know as the weather crisis. If we add to it the sanitary crisis caused for the COVID-19 pandemic, that additionally has been related since first time with the natural environment alteration by the humans, is evident imagine a panorama where the normative about waste and recycling should be updates and each time would be more aggressive to be eficents. 

In order to easily understand the scope of the latest changes in this area, the impact of the latest legislation at international, European and national level is broken down below. 

The importation of waste into China and other changes of international scope 

The main reason for China prohibiting the importation of solid waste was established at the end of 2017. Nevertheless, has passed something else more in the last three years while the asian giant has been prohibiting the importation of several wastes as plastics, autocar parts, paper, textiles, scraps of steel and wood. 

And all this since China’s announcement, this environment politics caused big difficulties for american and european industries, obligated to stock their wastes while they wait for a solution. During the decade, local companies of China received without problem all waste to process and cover them in raw material for industry. 

However, since January 1 of this year, when this ban came into full force and effect, the most immediate consequence has been a shift of the waste crisis to other countries in Southeast Asia, with Malaysia being the world’s largest importer of plastic waste, according to a Financial Times investigation. 

The Basel Convention and its amendments on plastic waste 

In the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal is the multilateral environmental treaty that deals most comprehensively with hazardous wastes and other wastes. 

During the Basel Conference, held in the spring of 2019, governments agreed to amend the treaty to include plastic waste in a legally binding framework. Thus, 186 countries accepted this amendment, which imposes new restrictions on the movement of this waste that is not destined for environmentally sound recycling. 

This ban also came into force on January 1, although it does not include plastics, scrap metal or waste paper unless they are contaminated or contain hazardous waste or materials. 

European Green Pact, the great hope for Europe’s climate neutrality 

The Green Deal was presented at the end of 2019 as the great solution to “make Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050 by boosting the economy, improving the health and quality of life of citizens, protecting nature and leaving no one behind,” in the words of German Ursula von Der Leyen, President of the European Commission. 

In the chronology of actions of the main European roadmap towards the continent’s sustainable economy, we can see important updates on energy transition, circular economy and climate objectives. 

In order to counteract the effects of the Chinese ban mentioned above, new rules came into force on January 1 to regulate the export, import and intra-Community shipment of plastic waste. intra-Community shipment of plastic waste. In other words, the export of such waste from the EU to non-OECD countries is prohibited in order to be able to reach neutrality. 

This means that waste operators cannot easily export their plastic waste unless they generate high purity mono material plastic fractions, so sorting technology is necessary. 

Spain sets course for the ecological transition 

In June last year, the Council of Ministers, at the proposal of the Ministry for Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge, approved the preliminary draft of the Waste Law to promote the circular economy, improve waste management and combat pollution. 

This renewed Waste and Contaminated Land Law proposes to boost a circular and low-carbon economy, protecting the environment and human health, while being a lever for economic recovery after the COVID-19 health crisis. 

At the same time, within the framework of the Spanish Circular Economy Strategy (EEEC), the 2030 Agenda proposed a series of objectives related to reducing waste generation, improving energy and water efficiency and increasing the reuse of waste. 

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