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EU ministers discuss ‘flawed’ waste shipment rules

European environment ministers are convening to discuss proposals to tighten waste shipping regulations.

Waste shipments will be the main environmental issue on the agenda of the meeting (14 October) of the first Environment Council under the Lithuanian Presidency, which began in July 2013.

Ministers will hold an “orientation debate” on a recent proposal by the European Commission (EC) to revise EU legislation on waste shipments.

The proposal, which was approved by the EC in July, aims to cut illegal waste exports by imposing stricter inspection requirements, giving greater powers to inspectors and harmonising the EU system to prevent exporters from exploiting lax arrangements that currently prevail in certain ports, said the EC.

“The current arrangements for inspecting waste are widely recognised to be flawed,” said the EC.

At least 2.8 million tonnes of waste are illegally shipped every year, often to Africa and Asia, where the waste is dumped or mismanaged with severe consequences for the environment and public health, it added.

Among the proposed amendments to the current waste shipment regulations are: requirements for member states to establish inspection plans and the possibility of requesting documents and evidence from suspected illegal exporters.

Ministers will discuss whether the proposal “strikes the appropriate balance between ensuring a minimum level playing field and allowing member states the necessary degree of flexibility”.

Defra’s environment secretary Owen Paterson stated: “The UK supports the principle of strengthening the enforcement of the regulations, but has concerns about some of the detail in the proposal.”

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