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Axion supports controversial plastics exports proposal

Axion Polymers has declared support for a controversial proposal on export shipments that would effectively reclassify many types of plastics waste as hazardous waste.

The reprocessing specialist said the Norwegian proposal to amend the Basel Convention would force the sector to raise its standards.

Norway’s motion to restrict ’green list’ or non-notifiable shipments to high-quality, single-polymer materials could be passed in April, meaning all 187 signatories to the convention, including the UK, would have to pass laws to enact the change later this year.

Although bodies in the UK, Europe and the US have slammed the proposals, Axion insists the idea represents a necessary force for good.

“It will clean up waste packaging flows – a major cause of ocean plastics – by setting strict quality specifications for exports, and clearly puts pressure on the waste and recycling sector to raise processing standards,” said Axion associate consultant Keith Freegard.

“The best place to get a sustainable, resource-efficient and low-risk material supply is from our own recycling infrastructure. That means delivering good quality material back to the packaging producers.

”Money raised from reforms of the packaging recovery note system should be invested in recycling infrastructure to ensure it delivers the quality of material required.”

FEAD, a federation representing waste management companies across Europe, last year warned that the proposals could do “much more harm than good”.

The change to the convention would mean many mixed-plastics exports would require a notification and consent procedure. FEAD said this paperwork process would “hinder the development of an EU market for plastic waste by raising the administrative burden and the costs of shipping plastic waste, or by making them simply impossible”.

The US Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries also warned that the move would lead to “administrative burdens for plastic scrap traders worldwide”.

“Adopting Norway’s plastics proposal would do more to discourage plastics recycling than it would help curb plastic waste in the oceans, and we believe recycling is part of the solution, not the problem,” it said in a statement.

Recoup chief executive Stuart Foster said the UK body shared the aim of European organisations to reduce plastic waste significantly, increase recycling and iradicate plastic leakage into the environment. 

But he added: “I believe the proposal to reclassify plastic waste will increase bureaucracy in the recycling process, add complication, increase costs and, if anything, will hamper genuine efforts to increase plastic recycling while, I suspect, not resolving the plastic leakage issue in the way it is intended.”

But Axion’s commercial operations manager Laura Smith said: “Industry has to embrace these changes. We need to get the changes right, robust and for the long term, ensuring a level playing field for all. They will be part of a package that delivers a UK home-based, secure circular economy.”

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