EU Exporting More Waste, Including Hazardous Waste

Waste is increasingly moving across EU borders, for recovery or disposal. This is true for waste shipments between EU countries, and also transfers of waste outside the EU, according to a new assessment from the European Environment Agency (EEA).

Increasingly stringent and harmonised waste policies in the EU have led countries to transport more waste material elsewhere, for example if they do not have the facilities to recycle or dispose of particular types of waste. There are increasing demands for recyclable materials, both within the EU and beyond, particularly in booming Asian economies.

While trade of hazardous waste grew between 2001 and 2007, shipped volumes decreased in 2008 and 2009, probably due to the economic downturn, according to the report ‘Movements of waste across the EU’s internal and external borders’. Exports of waste plastics and metals picked up again after the economic downturn and exceeded the pre-2009 levels in 2011.

The international trade in recyclable material is expected to continue to grow, the report states, driven by more recycling, growing global competition for resources and increasing awareness of the value of waste. Trade in hazardous waste is also expected to increase, although the driver in this case will be the need to treat waste in specific facilities that are not available in all countries.

Overall the EU should put more efforts into waste prevention in order to become more resource-efficient, a key element of the EU 2020 growth strategy. The report recommends encouraging new technologies and business models that generate less waste, or waste that is less hazardous.

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