New rules on the export of recyclable waste

July 19, 2007 at 11:20 am

New regulations affecting the export of recyclable waste such as paper, cardboard and certain types of plastic have just come in to force in the UK. The rules, set out by the European Commission, mainly affect businesses exporting so-called “green list” waste, which poses only a low risk to the environment. They will also support measures to stop toxic waste being dumped in developing countries, following an incident last year when 16 died and thousands fell ill in Africa’s Ivory Coast after waste was dumped from a Dutch-chartered ship.

Although controversial, millions of tonnes of recyclable materials are shipped overseas from the UK every year. The Environment Agency argues that there is a legitimate and growing trade for this waste, which is seen as a valuable resource in many countries.

As of 12th July, it will be the responsibility of recyclable waste exporters to check that the country they export to is happy to receive the waste and if so, under what conditions. Businesses must check which category the waste they are exporting falls in to:

  • Prohibited – Waste that cannot be exported under any circumstances. This includes the export of hazardous waste to developing countries.
  • Notifiable – Waste which cannot be moved without prior written permission from the relevant authorities. This includes hazardous waste being moved for recovery.
  • Green List – Waste which can be moved without prior permission, but is subject to other requirements. This is mainly non-hazardous waste.

The application of the rules depends not only on the type of waste but also on the status of the countries sending and receiving it and whether it is to be recovered or disposed of. The Environment Agency is warning that the new rules are complex and urging those affected to read their guidance on International Shipments of Waste. They say that getting the process right means efforts can be focused on pursuing those who export mixed, poor quality waste to countries that don’t want it.

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