Waste types and controls—plastics
Waste types and controls—plastics

The following Environment guidance note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Waste types and controls—plastics
  • Brexit impact
  • Plastic waste—the problem
  • International controls on plastic waste
  • MARPOL—international controls on plastic waste
  • London Convention and London Protocol—international controls on plastic waste
  • OSPAR—international controls on plastic waste
  • United Nations Resolution on Marine Litter and Microplastics—international controls on plastic waste
  • Basel Convention—international controls on plastic waste
  • European legislation on plastic waste
  • more

Brexit impact

As of exit day (31 January 2020) the UK is no longer an EU Member State. However, in accordance with the Withdrawal Agreement, the UK has entered an implementation period, during which it continues to be subject to EU law. This has an impact on this content.

For further guidance, see: Brexit—impact on environmental law and Brexit Bulletin—key updates, research tips and resources.

Plastic waste—the problem

Dealing with plastic waste is not a new issue, and for many years, controls such as those found in the Waste Framework Directive 2008/98/EC (Waste Framework Directive) and its predecessor directives, have provided rules on how waste should be dealt with. Concepts such as the waste hierarchy, which sets out how various waste streams, including plastics, should be managed in order to reduce landfill disposal, by prevention, preparing for re-use, and by recycling or using other recovery methods are key frameworks in this area. These work alongside other controls—many of which are outlined below in more detail.

What has changed more recently, is an increasing awareness of the problems associated with plastics, particularly in the marine environment, as well as a greater understanding of how plastics degrade and leach into the environment.

Around 25.8 million tonnes of plastic waste are generated every year in Europe of which less than 30% is