Amendments to the Basel Convention regarding plastic waste: impacts on the Canadian recycling industry

The following article was submitted to CARI by Environment and Climate Change Canada.

On January 1, 2021, amendments to the Basel Convention regarding plastic waste came into force in Canada. The new rules resulting from these amendments establish control mechanisms on certain types of plastic waste shipped between Parties to the Convention. The global trade in plastic waste will be more transparent and its management will be 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 wastes and other wastes. The Convention was set up to control the international movement of hazardous wastes, including certain used materials such as lead-acid batteries, pickling solutions and chemicals, to name a few. -ones. It aims to protect human health and the environment from the potential adverse effects of the generation, management, international movement and disposal of hazardous wastes and other wastes (e.g. household refuse and waste non-hazardous plastic). The Convention has been in effect since 1992, and the Government of Canada was one of the first signatories.

The Plastic Waste Amendments control the international movement of plastic waste that is limited or difficult to recycle; these can be dirty or contaminated plastics (by residues in containers or other household waste, for example), halogenated plastics as well as plastic waste made of more than one polymer. For a list of plastic waste affected by the Amendments, please see the Basel Convention Plastics Amendments Questions and Answers page.

It is important for Canadian exporters and those shipping from Canadian ports to note that many types of plastic waste require a permit to export to countries that are signatories to the Basel Convention. These new changes 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 countries. However, this is only true if the ultimate shipping destination is either Canada or the United States.

These changes are likely to have knock-on effects for everyone in the supply chain, including waste collectors or processors who may need to redesign processes for collecting, sorting and processing materials to find markets.

Canada is implementing amendments to the Basel Convention regarding plastic waste through the Export and Import of Hazardous Waste and Hazardous Recyclable Material Regulations. Under the said Regulations, control mechanisms have been in place for years for exports of plastic waste to specific countries.

The Amendments introduce new controls on plastic waste exports to most countries around the world, but many of Canada’s existing export markets already have strict import restrictions in place. In some countries, for example China, India, Malaysia and Vietnam, all plastic waste is banned for import if it does not meet specific requirements. Canada, for its part, requires permits to export plastic waste to those countries that control certain waste under their domestic regulations. These provisions will continue to apply and evolve as other countries implement new 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 electronic waste, you may be subject to the Canadian Regulations. , and a valid export or transit permit may be required. Even if the plastic waste you plan to export is not generally considered hazardous in Canada, the Regulations may still apply.

To determine whether shipments of plastics, other waste or other recyclable materials 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 definitions of plastic waste from the Basel Convention and to understand the rules of the country of destination.

Exporters are also advised to ensure that prospective buyers or recyclers hold valid import permits for the country of destination and are authorized to handle the types of waste or recyclable material in question.

A permit to export waste from Canada or transit through Canada can be applied for online through the Canadian Notification and Movement Tracking System (CNMSS). Once you receive your permit, movement tracking documents can be generated, printed and submitted through the MCNSS portal. The portal can also be used for documents tracking interprovincial movement of hazardous waste or hazardous recyclable material within Canada. The MCNCS will report errors, missing data as well as areas of potential non-compliance. In addition, the system is compatible with the shipping document associated with the transport of dangerous goods. Environment and Climate Change Canada intends to mandate the use of electronic movement tracking documents in the last quarter of 2021.

To learn more, visit the Environment and Climate Change Canada website at or send your questions to [email protected].

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