Plastics waste trade and the environment

Alessio D’Amato, Susanna Paleari, Maija Pohjakallio, Ive Vanderreydt, Roberto Zoboli*

*Autore corrispondente per questo lavoro

Risultato della ricerca: LibroBook


Europe is at crossroads regarding its management of plastic, plastic waste and the plastic waste trade. Rapidly growing amounts of plastic have negative environmental and climate impacts. Plastic and plastic waste are traded worldwide. Exporting plastic waste from the EU to Asia is a means of dealing with insufficient recycling capacities in the EU. Waste import restrictions in China have shifted exports to other countries. Because some types of plastic waste have been added to the United Nations Basel Convention, the option of exporting plastic waste is becoming increasingly difficult. This requires policymakers, business and other actors to build a more robust and circular economy for plastic in Europe. Annual global plastic production has increased from 2 to 380 million tonnes since 1950 and is projected to double by 2035 and almost quadruple by 2050. European countries lack the capacity to manage growing amounts of plastic waste in circular and sustainable ways. In early 2019, the EU exported around 150 000 tonnes of plastic waste per month. This figure was about twice as high in 2015 and 2016 - up to 300.000 tons monthly - when exports went to China and Hong Kong primarily. Import restrictions are the reason for the decrease and shift in exports of plastic waste to other countries in Asia. Poor management of plastic waste has negative environmental and climate effects, such as deposits of plastic and microplastics appearing on land and in rivers and oceans worldwide. Plastic contributes to climate change through greenhouse gas emissions from production and from waste management, and to harmful effects from chemicals and water use. There is little knowledge or transparency about how plastic waste imported from the EU is managed in other countries.Recent restrictions on imports of plastic waste in China, combined with some types of plastic being added to the Basel Convention, is likely to further decrease EU exports. This poses the risk of increased incineration and landfilling of plastic waste in Europe. The EU must find circular and climate-friendly ways of managing its plastic waste e.g. by increasing reuse and recycling.
Lingua originaleEnglish
Numero di pagine50
ISBN (stampa)N/A
Stato di pubblicazionePubblicato - 2019


  • European environmental policies
  • International trade
  • Plastic waste


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