Lithuania proposes to ban waste imports from Russia at Environment Council

At the EU Environment Council in Brussels on Monday, Lithuania, supported by the Czech Republic, Latvia, and Estonia, proposed that EU Member States ban imports of ferrous metals, copper, and aluminum waste and scrap from Russia, as Russia is using the money to finance its war against Ukraine.

"Lithuania proposes that the European Commission assess all options at the EU level and make a proposal to suspend imports of waste from Russia into the EU or allow Member States to take unilateral restrictive measures. We believe that such imports contribute to the financing of Russia's war against Ukraine and should be stopped," Ambassador Jurga Kasputienė, Deputy Permanent Representative of Lithuania to the EU, said at the Environment Council meeting.

Between 2022 and 2023, Russia imported more than €118 million worth of ferrous metals, copper, and aluminum waste and scrap into the EU. Most of these imports pass through Lithuania.

Transboundary shipments of waste are governed by the Basel Convention and the Waste Shipment Regulation, so individual Member States cannot unilaterally ban or restrict such imports at the national level.

The Environment Council also discussed a proposal submitted by the EC last summer to amend the Waste Directive of the European Parliament and the Council. This is a targeted amendment to the Directive covering the areas of textile and food waste.

In the area of textile waste, the proposal aims to ensure a more circular and sustainable management of textile waste, in line with the EU's strategy for sustainable and circular textiles. To this end, it proposes setting up textile waste management systems based on the producer responsibility principle and promoting circularity in product design.

Concrete measures and quantitative targets for food waste reduction are proposed for the prevention of food waste: 10% in the processing and production chain and 30% per capita food waste in retail and consumer areas. EU Member States should reach these targets by 2030, compared to the amount of food waste generated in 2020.

Political discussions were also held on a proposal submitted to the EC on 16 October 2023 on the prevention of plastic pellet losses with a view to reducing microplastic pollution. It provides for the necessary preventive measures to avoid the release of plastic pellets into the environment at all stages of the market supply.

During the discussions, Lithuania noted its support for the general objectives of the proposals but pointed out that some elements of the proposals remain subject to further discussion. The ministerial meeting exchanged views on the following issues. The meeting discussed the EC's communication, published on 6 February, which proposes a 90% reduction in EU greenhouse gas emissions by 2040 compared to 1990 levels.

According to the Lithuanian representatives, the document lacks a detailed analysis of the availability of innovative and advanced greenhouse gas reduction technologies. It is necessary to assess how these technologies will develop in different sectors and whether they will be affordable. There is also a lack of analysis of the EU's financial resources beyond 2030. It is very difficult to assess the financial and economic feasibility of achieving the 2040 targets without information on the financial resources of the new Multiannual Financial Framework.

The final decision on the EU's 2040 climate target will be taken by the European Council this year in June. Following the European Parliament elections later this year, the European Council will decide on the future of the EU. The new EC will present proposals for new legislation to implement the target in June.