EU Takes Bold Step: Landmark Agreement to Control Global Waste Exports
The European Parliament and the Council have recently come to a significant agreement, on November 16, introducing comprehensive rules aimed at exerting stronger controls over waste exports and preventing the export of waste to countries ill-equipped to manage such materials. This move has been lauded for its efforts to combat pollution and environmental imbalances globally.
One notable aspect of the agreement is its potential impact on the shipping industry. Danish Shipping, a group representing the interests of the Danish industry, commends the accord, emphasizing that it not only strengthens waste management globally but also “opens the door for responsible recycling of EU-flagged ships.” This comes at a crucial time as the shipping sector is expected to dispose of older ships to comply with emerging environmental regulations.
The lack of authorized recycling options for retired ships has posed a challenge for EU shipping companies. Meeting stringent safety and environmental standards has proven difficult for many organizations, limiting the industry’s options. Danish Shipping asserts that the new EU agreement provides an opportunity for responsible recycling outside the EU and the OECD.
The EU’s stance is clear: its members must take greater responsibility for waste and refrain from exporting environmental problems to third countries. The legislation includes a strict ban on exporting plastic waste from the EU to non-OECD countries unless they meet specific environmental conditions. Moreover, the agreement introduces measures for tracking waste and enforcing regulations to combat waste trafficking.
Under the new agreement, waste suitable for recycling can be exported from the EU to non-OECD countries if these countries express a willingness to receive and manage it sustainably. Danish Shipping notes that facilities outside the EU, meeting EU standards, can now seek approval, creating an incentive for them to attract customers with EU-flagged ships. This is expected to enhance the quality of ship recycling facilities and provide additional options for shipowners.
Other waste suitable for recycling, however under the new agreement, will be exported from the EU to non-OECD countries when they indicate that they are willing to receive the waste and can deal with it sustainably. According to Danish Shipping, these provisions mean that facilities outside the EU, if they meet EU standards, will now be able to receive EU approval, which gives them an incentive to seek to attract customers with EU-flagged ships. The group writes that they believe this will raise the quality of ship recycling facilities while also providing new options for shipowners.
“Recycling of ships must be done in a safe, responsible, and environmentally sound manner and we believe this new agreement will help secure exactly that,” said Nina Porst, Director of Climate, Environment and Safety at Danish Shipping.
The shipping industry is believed to be on the verge of a wave of recycling both as ships are getting older and new environmental regulations make it harder for older ships to continue in service. Industry trade group BIMCO, for example, recently highlighted that containerships have reached their highest average age ever. Carriers held on to their tonnage and capacity during the last few years as demand surged. Data from Linerlytica shows however that the number of containerships going to the breakers jumped dramatically in 2023 with more than 80 ships sent to the yards this year. Yet, that represents less than 150,000 TEU capacity with many more ships idled.
Nina Porst, Director of Climate, Environment, and Safety at Danish Shipping, asserts that the agreement will contribute to safe, responsible, and environmentally sound ship recycling. The shipping industry is poised for a wave of recycling due to aging ships and stricter environmental regulations. BIMCO, an industry trade group, highlights the increasing average age of containerships and notes a surge in vessels being sent for recycling in 2023.
With the number of ships set to be recycled expected to grow, the agreement on waste shipments is seen as a positive development. Porst anticipates that the agreement will increase global facility capacity for recycling ships in accordance with high EU safety and environmental standards.
While the political agreement has been reached, the European Parliament and the Council must formally adopt the regulation, with approval expected before the year’s end.