Basel Convention plastic waste amendments: Impacts on Canadian recycling industry
On January 1st, 2021, the Basel Convention’s plastics waste amendments became effective in Canada. These new rules arising from the amendments place controls on certain types of plastic waste shipped between Convention Parties. This will make global trade in plastic waste more transparent while also ensuring that its management is safer for human health and the environment.
The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal is the most comprehensive global environmental treaty on hazardous and other wastes. The Convention was put in place to control the international movement of hazardous waste; including materials such as used lead acid batteries, waste pickle liquor, and used chemicals to name a few. It aims to protect human health and the environment from the potential negative impact of the generation, management, international movement and disposal of hazardous wastes and other waste (for example waste collected from households and non-hazardous plastic waste). The Convention has been in effect since 1992, and the Government of Canada is an original signatory.
The plastic waste amendments put in place controls on the international movement of plastic wastes that have limited recycling options or are more difficult to recycle; including dirty or contaminated plastics (for example: residues remaining in containers, or presence of other wastes collected from households), halogenated plastics, as well as plastic waste consisting of more than one polymer. For a list of plastic wastes subject to the amendments, please visit the Basel Convention’s Plastics Amendments question and answer page.
It is important for Canadian exporters, and those shipping out of Canadian ports to note that many types of plastic wastes require a permit for export to countries that are a Party to the Basel Convention. These new amendments do not affect shipments between Canada and the United States, as the new requirements do not apply to plastic waste, or household waste trade between the two nations. However, this is only the case if the final destination of the shipment is either Canada or the United States.
These changes will likely have impacts on everyone involved in the supply chain, including on collectors or processors who may have to adjust how materials are collected, sorted, and processed to find markets.
Canada implements the Basel Convention’s plastic waste amendments through the Export and Import of Hazardous Waste and Hazardous Recyclable Materials Regulations (the Regulations). Under the Regulations, controls have been in place for years for exports of plastic waste to specific countries.
While the Basel Convention’s plastic waste amendments introduce new controls on plastic waste exports to much of the world, many of Canada’s existing export markets already have stringent import restrictions in place. In some countries, for example China, India, Malaysia and Vietnam, all plastic wastes are prohibited for import if they do not meet specific requirements. Canada requires permits for exports of plastic waste to those countries that control certain wastes under domestic Regulations. These provisions will continue to apply and evolve as additional countries implement further rules and prohibitions.
If you export plastic waste for recycling or final disposal, or if you are an exporter of other scrap materials, including plastic, paper, or e-waste, you may be subject to Canada’s Regulations, and a valid export or transit permit may be required. Even if the plastic waste you plan to export is not commonly considered hazardous in Canada, the regulations may still apply.
To determine whether plastic or other waste/recyclable shipments require a permit from Canada for export or transit, exporters are advised to consult sections 1.1 and 2.1 of the Regulations, review the Basel Convention plastic waste definitions, and understand the rules for the country of destination. In addition, exporters are advised to ensure that proposed buyers or recyclers hold valid import permits for the country of destination, and are authorised to manage the specific types of wastes/recyclables.
A permit to export from, or transit wastes through Canada, can be applied for online via the Canadian Notice and Movement Tracking System (CNMTS). Once you have received the permit, you can go online to generate, print, and submit movement documents through the CNMTS portal. This portal can also be used for movement documents used for interprovincial movements of hazardous wastes or hazardous recyclable materials within Canada. Utilizing the CNMTS will flag errors and missing data, identify areas of potential non-compliance, and is consistent with the Transport of Dangerous Goods (TDG) shipping document. Environment & Climate Change Canada intends to make the use of electronic movement documents mandatory in the fourth quarter of 2021.
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