Latest draft of Correspondents Guidelines no 12 - EU plastic export guidance

11 OCTOBER 2021

The European Commission has a series of Correspondents Guidelines that provide guidance on export controls. Those in place on 1 Jan Brexit day continue to be applied as UK guidance but any revisions or new CGs after that date are not considered applicable to GB. However, whenever the Northern Ireland Protocol is finally agreed, they will continue to be applicable to NI for the purposes of imports into NI but NOT for exports from NI into GB as normal UK waste movement rules will apply.

Since the change in the Basel code classification of green list plastic waste from B3010 to B3011 that took effect on 1 Jan this year, the EC has been developing CG 12, 'Classification of plastic waste', primarily to define the two requirements laid down oin the Basel position of 'almost free from contamination' and 'almost exclusively consisting of one .... polymer'. 

The latest draft of this was produced on 23 September and whilst we understand there are still significant differences between Member States to iron out before the final version, one thing that seems widely agreed is the application of a 2% limit on non-target material ie contamination and/or separate polymer type. for exports of B3011 (green list) plastic waste from Member States to non-EU countries. Within this draft, there is also a proposal to allow up to 6% for movements between Member States where B3011 is classed as EU3011 but we understand there is considerable disagreement on this.

Of course, none of this is relevant to UK exports of plastic waste other than from Northern Ireland once the Northern Ireland Protocol kicks in. At that point, NI will be considered part of the EA for movements of waste in or out other than to GB where waste will be able to continue be moved under GB waste controls.

But this does raise the question of how GB Agencies will judge exports from EU to GB once CG12 is agreed. The GB Agencies have always refused to accept percentage contamination limits for exports and work on the highly subjective 'de minimis' requirement. As highlighted in the recent Biffa trial, this led to a conviction based on a visual assessment rather than any quantified analysis and left industry extremely nervous as to where the quality line is drawn for exports. However, it is one thing for the Agencies to apply that position to GB exporters over whom they have jurisdiction but another thing to apply that to EU exporters where they don't. Presumably, they would have to prosecute the GB importer for accepting non-conforming waste when neither the EU exporter or GB importer had a clear and quantifiable position to work to.