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Waste: Exports

Question for Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

UIN 215126, tabled on 31 January 2019

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what measures are in place to ensure that waste exported from the UK is dealt with in accordance with UK and EU guidance on human health and environmental standards at its final destination.

Answered on

7 February 2019

We want to promote UK-based recycling and export less waste to be processed abroad. We want to tighten controls over the waste which we do export. We are looking at a suite of measures including increasing monitoring of international waste shipments and charging higher fees to improve compliance. We set out these ideas in the Resources and Waste Strategy at the end of last year and will publish detailed plans soon.

The UK is a Party to the United Nations Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal. The Convention provides a global system for controlling the export of hazardous wastes and wastes collected from households. The requirements of the Basel Convention have been implemented in UK law by the EU Waste Shipment Regulations (Regulation (EC) 1013/2006) and the UK Transfrontier Shipment of Waste Regulations 2007.

The EU Waste Shipment Regulations impose strict conditions on the types of waste that can be exported, and set out procedures that waste exporters must follow. They prohibit the export from the EU of waste for disposal to a country outside the European Free Trade Area (EFTA). Regulation 21 of the UK Transfrontier Shipment of Waste Regulations make it an offence to transport waste destined for disposal to countries outside the EFTA.

The legislation also requires that those involved in the shipment of waste take all necessary steps to ensure waste is managed in an environmentally sound manner throughout its shipment and at the waste management facility in the country of destination.

The UK has a robust approach to enforcing these controls. In 2017 the Environment Agency (EA) inspected more than 1,000 shipping containers and returned 367 of these to their site of loading. The EA stopped over 7,000 tonnes of waste at ports and prevented nearly 9,000 tonnes of waste from reaching ports.

The EA takes a proactive, intelligence-led approach to ensure it targets shipments that pose a high risk of non-compliance. The EA’s use of Stop Notices has proved to be an effective tool in prohibiting illegal waste shipments from being exported. After exports are stopped, the costs associated with returning a waste shipment that is found to be unfit for export to the site of origin for further treatment can be a significant cost to the exporter. This has been sufficient to educate and deter further illegal waste exports without the need for additional sanctions.