Sustainability Through Recycling

April 2021

The recycling industry kicked off 2021 facing a complex mix of three major challenges – the Basel amendments, Brexit and Lockdown III. However, four months in and the fog is starting to clear and experts, Reef Recycling, are helping their suppliers and re-processors get to grips with the new norm.

Due to the Covid-19 Pandemic, 2020 was a highly challenging year for most business sectors. However, few would argue that the start of 2021 looked even more daunting for the UK recycling industry, as the sector faced three sizeable challenges all at once. The Government’s enforcement of lockdown III measures following the UK’s Winter surge in Coronavirus infection rates, the uncertainty over what Brexit would mean for the industry, and the Basel Convention legislative changes affecting the classification of plastic waste for export. You might say all three are significant challenges in their own right, but clearly when combined these challenges created an outlook, at the start of the year, that appeared pretty unclear and precarious for many UK recyclers.

Reef Recycling Limited, plastic scrap recycling experts, deal with the ramifications of the new Basel rules every day, and they understand how the changes intertwine with the new Brexit situation. Despite Covid, their sheer grit and determination to run a business-as-usual plastic waste recycling service throughout the pandemic has put them in a strong position to help obligated producers and re-processors handle the current challenges. Team Reef is focused on taking the burden of the new Basel/Brexit paperwork away from busy producers, freeing them up to focus on running their own operations, in the knowledge their plastic waste will be handled safely and in an ethically sound manner.


Well before the pandemic arrived, back in May 2019, 187 countries got together and decided it was time to shake up international trade in plastic scrap to address the improper disposal of plastic waste to reduce its negative effects on the environment.

The UK exports over half a million tonnes, over 60% of its plastic waste, and according to DEFRA around 210,000 tonnes, 40% of plastic waste is exported each year from England to non-OECD countries

A treaty, now known as the Basel Convention was born, which set about developing a plan to control and regulate the transboundary movement and disposal of hazardous waste. In short, the treaty now categorises plastic waste under three codes / headings:

  • B3011– also known as ‘green list’ plastics – clean, uncontaminated, pre-sorted plastic scrap destined for environmentally sound recycling. (The kind of plastic waste Reef Recycling specialises in). The B3011 Guidelines can be found here.
  • Y48– non-hazardous plastic scrap that doesn’t appear on the ‘green list’ – contaminated / highly  mixed plastic waste. This material can only be shipped under notification controls. The Y48 Guidelines can be found here.
  • A3210– plastic waste or scrap that contains a hazardous constituent.


UK exporters have seen a number of challenges since the trade agreement with the EU ceased on 31/12/2020.  This has been a steep learning curve for all exporters.  The main ones being that the material now needs to clear UK customs and the paperwork needs to meet the customs requirements in the country the material is destined for. If the material is travelling through a number of countries additional documentation is required, but Reef working with our customs agents can handle all of this for you.


There are other things happening in the industry too. For example, Turkey has independently put in place new rules of its own. From 1st January. Turkey banned plastic waste that comes about as the result of mechanical sorting. Turkey accounted for almost 1/3 of plastic waste exports from the UK in 2020.


If you are a UK producer of plastic packaging and would like to know  how Reef Recycling can help you better understand your obligations regarding the recent Basel Convention amendments, or any other aspect of the Reef Recycling service – please call us on 01937 520306 – or visit our website


The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) , which has 37 member countries – including the USA, UK, France, Germany, Poland, Korea and New Zealand – aims to improve the economic and social well-being of all people worldwide.

The Basel Convention is an organisation focused on protecting human health and the environment against the adverse effects of hazardous wastes.