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Import and Export Controls: Waste

(S,P) The EU and the UK take action to curb illegal exports of waste with complex import and export controls. Find out what and how to go about it.

Economic growth and globalization have led to a worldwide increase of waste transport across borders, whether on the road, by railway or ship. Moreover, the scarcity of natural resources has also stepped up the trade of waste due to the valuable secondary raw materials that certain waste contains.

However, not only do they have a positive effect, increasing revenue, but they can also cause harm to the environment as well as human beings.

What a waste shipment is

Waste exports and imports are called waste shipments. A waste shipment means the transport of waste between your and another country whether by road, rail, air or sea. Waste shipments must follow rules called waste shipment controls.

If you do not follow the relevant legal requirements you may be committing a criminal offence and risk prosecution, financial penalties and imprisonment. You may want to seek independent legal advice before importing or exporting waste.

Check if your material is classed as waste

Waste shipment controls only apply if the material you want to transport is waste. You need to find out if the material you want to transport is classed as waste by any of the countries involved. If it is waste, controls apply across the whole journey.

Sometimes the regulatory bodies responsible for overseeing the rules in each country (known as the ‘competent authorities’) may disagree on whether something is waste. In these cases, the material will be wasted.

Use the guidance on how to check if your material is waste.

You usually have a legal duty of care if you produce, carry, import, keep or dispose of waste. You usually have to make sure your waste is handled safely and only passed to those authorised to receive it. It is also often your responsibility to classify your waste correctly and ship it under the correct controls.

EU Measures

For these reasons, there have been certain regulations set in place in the EU, specifically under the Waste Shipment Regulation (EU) 1013/2006, which has been amended several times in order to intensify controls on waste shipment. In line with this, the new Regulation (EU) 2016/1245 intends to help customs identify potential waste streams by the implementation of a correlation table between CN codes and waste codes.

What kind of control procedures does the Waste Shipment Regulation establish?

The Regulation basically sets up two control procedures:

  • The general information requirement consists of accompanying a shipment of waste by certain documents to assist the tracking of shipments. It is usually applicable to shipments for the recovery of wastes.

  • - The notification procedure, requires the prior written consent of the competent authorities of the country of dispatch, transit and destination within 30 days. This procedure essentially applies to shipments for disposal of waste, as well as to those involving hazardous wastes.

Does the Waste Shipment Regulation only affect the EU?

The Regulation does not only influence waste shipments between EU’s Member States but also with those in European Free Trade Association (EFTA), the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and countries that are a party to the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal. In this case, the controls and procedures settled down to apply to the shipment of waste:

  • Between EU countries within the EU or with transit through third countries

  • Imported into the EU from third countries

  • Exported from the EU to third countries

  • In transit through the EU, on the way from or to third countries

How does Regulation (EU) 2016/1245 impact shipments of waste?

The regulation, which entered into force on 17 August 2016, implements a preliminary correlation table between CN codes and the waste codes listed in Regulation (EU) 1013/2006. Being aware of the differences in the goods covered by both codes and the difficulties to match them, the European Commission aims with this tool to help customs to identify potential waste streams further and curb illegal exports of waste out of the EU, making the Waste Shipment Regulation more enforceable.

The correlation table demonstrates the instances in which some waste codes share the same correlation with more than one CN code, the same being applied the other way round. It therefore will be key to consider the description of the codes in their respective Regulations to determine the applicable one. Besides, where applicable to shipments mainly within the EU, waste codes are not included in the table since customs authorities are normally not involved.

Waste shipment controls in the UK

Waste controls are set out in the retained Waste Shipments Regulation EC No 1013/2006 as amended by:

  • The International Waste Shipments (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019

  • The International Waste Shipments (Amendment of Regulation (EC) No 1013/2006) Regulations 2020

  • The International Waste Shipments (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2021

They apply from the point the waste is loaded until the waste is processed at the destination facility.

Rules for importing and exporting waste apply in:

  • the country where the shipment starts

  • the country where the shipment ends

  • any country the waste passes through on its intended journey (known as ‘transit countries’)

You need to check the rules for all the countries your waste will pass through on its intended journey. Some waste shipments are prohibited.

If your waste shipment is not prohibited, it must comply with either:

  • ‘green list’ waste controls (also known as Article 18 controls), which are simplified controls for most non-hazardous materials

  • notification controls (sometimes known as ‘amber list’ controls), which require consent from all the competent authorities involved before you can ship

How to find out which controls apply

The controls that apply to waste shipments depend on the:

  • waste type

  • treatment type planned for the waste at its destination

  • country of destination and the transport route

There are also producer responsibility regulations which you may need to keep to if you export wastes such as:

  • packaging

  • batteries

  • end of life vehicles (ELV)

  • waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE)

The type of waste

Describe waste using the description codes in the relevant regulations. You can use a consolidated waste list of the relevant annexes to check how you should describe your waste.

The annexes have 2 types of waste codes – Basel codes and OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) codes. Basel codes start with a single letter (for example, B3011) and OECD codes start with 2 letters (for example, AC300).

If your waste type appears in the consolidated waste list, the waste code and annex title number will help you to find out which shipment controls apply.

If there is no Basel or OECD code for your waste, you must describe it as ‘not listed’ and notification controls will apply.

The controls that apply to non-hazardous waste plastic changed on 1 January 2021.

The type of treatment

Waste ‘treatment’ refers to either disposal or recovery. The terms ‘disposal’ and ‘recovery’ are defined in the EU Waste Framework Directive.

Generally, imports and exports of waste must be for recovery. Imports or exports for disposal are prohibited in the UK, except for a few exceptions described in the UK plan for waste shipments. In these exceptions notification controls always apply.

For some plastics, the waste controls depend on the type of recovery planned. Find out more in our guidance on importing and exporting waste plastic.

The intended journey and destination

You must follow the rules that apply in each country the waste will stop at or move through on its journey, including:

  • its origin

  • its final destination

  • any transit countries

You can use the waste export controls tool to work out which controls apply to your shipment. The tool is only a guide, so you should always check the controls with the competent authorities, government departments or customs inspectorates in the destination and transit countries before shipping.

You can also use the following general principles for your intended destination to work out which controls apply.

Recovery in OECD countries or EU member states

Green list waste controls generally apply to waste listed under a single entry in Annex III, IIIB or the mixtures of wastes listed in Annex IIIA (these annexes can be found in the consolidated waste list).

Notification controls apply to all other wastes.

If you are shipping waste to or from the EU, you must follow the guidelines for customs controls on transboundary shipments of waste.

Recovery in non-OECD countries outside the EU

The Green List Regulations set out the controls that apply to waste listed in Annex III and IIIA according to each non-OECD country.

The controls that apply to non-hazardous waste plastic changed on 1 January 2021. This may affect the controls which apply to your shipment. You may need to check the rules on importing and exporting waste plastic.

Some of the wastes listed in Annex V are prohibited from export, including hazardous waste and household waste.

Notification controls apply to all other wastes.

You can refer to the lists of:

  • EU countries

  • OECD countries

  • competent authorities of EU member states

  • competent authorities of OECD countries

  • competent authorities of non-OECD countries

Exporting waste under green list waste controls

A waste that you intend to export under green list waste controls must:

  • not be prohibited

  • not need to be shipped under notification controls

  • not contain hazardous waste

  • be properly sorted before loading, meaning that the sorting process removes contaminants to the point where any remaining contamination is so small as to be minimal and does not prevent the waste from being classified as green list waste

If the waste still has more than minimal contamination after it has been sorted, then you may need to ship it under notification controls or it may be prohibited for export.

If the waste can be exported under green list waste controls, you do not need to apply for consent from the Environment Agency or pay them a fee. You must fill in an Annex VII form, which contains information about the waste and its journey, and follow the other steps explained in the next sections.

You must check with the competent authorities of the transit or destination countries whether different rules apply and you are required to apply for consent or pay fees. It is your responsibility to check all the requirements that apply.

If you are exporting waste plastic you must follow the importing and exporting waste plastic guidance.

Before shipping the waste

  1. Make sure the waste is properly sorted so that it can be exported as green list waste. Some countries may still prohibit the import of such waste or require that you send it under notification controls. Check whether you can send the properly sorted waste as green list waste to the destination country.

  2. Make sure that the Annex VII form is fully completed and sign it – it must travel with the waste at all times. You should keep copies of Annex VII forms for 3 years. Competent authorities can ask to see copies at any time.

  3. Create a written contract between the person arranging the shipment (you as the exporter) and the importer (also called the consignee). The contract must make sure that, if the shipment cannot be completed as planned, or is found to be illegal, the exporter will take the waste back or recover it in another way and provide for its storage in the meantime. You must keep copies of the contract for 3 years – competent authorities can ask to see them.

Completing the Annex VII form

The Annex VII form contains boxes that must be filled in. These boxes are known as ‘blocks’ and are numbered on the form to make it easier to refer to.

The exporter in block 1 is the person who arranges the shipment and signs the declaration in block 12 to say there is a contract in place. If you are a broker or dealer based in the EU, you must be registered with the Environment Agency, Scottish Environmental Protection Agency or Natural Resources Wales if you arrange waste shipments from Great Britain. If you are a broker or dealer based outside the EU, you must be registered and have a personal or business address in the UK.

The importer in block 2 is the recovery facility or a broker or dealer who is under the jurisdiction of the country of destination and has legal control over the waste when it arrives there.

You must fill in contact details in full, including the:

  • contact name

  • company registration number (if applicable)

  • address, including country

  • email

  • telephone number, including the international dialling code

Business confidentiality is not a reason for not including these details.

The recovery facility in block 7 must be the facility where the waste will be recovered. If the facility in block 7 is an interim facility, you must also give information about the facilities where further operations will take place. Do this on a separate annex and keep this with the Annex VII form.

You must enter the code that describes the treatment at the recovery facility in block 8. The codes can be found in Annex II of the EU Waste Framework Directive.

After the waste arrives

The importer and (if different) the recovery facility must sign and fill in the Annex VII form in blocks 13 and 14.

Exporters and importers must keep copies of the Annex VII form and their contracts for 3 years – competent authorities can ask to see them.

If the waste shipment cannot be completed as planned, the exporter should tell the Environment Agency.

Exporting waste under notification controls

Before you export waste under notification controls you must tell (‘notify’) all the competent authorities involved in the waste journey, and they must give consent before you can go ahead.

To export waste under notification controls from England, you must be under the jurisdiction of England or Wales. You must also be one of the following:

  • the original waste producer

  • the licensed new producer

  • a licensed collector of waste

  • a dealer or broker registered with the Environment Agency with written approval from a producer or licensed collector to move their waste

  • the holder of the waste when all of these are unknown or insolvent

1. Fill in a notification application using the International Waste Shipments (IWS) online service

Apply for consent through IWS online. You can use this service to:

  • create and manage your notification application

  • create pre-notifications and upload movement documents (information you must give before your waste shipment starts)

  • record and manage shipment data

When you use the system for the first time you will need to register for a user account. You can contact the Environment Agency if you need help.

You must give details on all aspects of the waste, including its origin, treatment and journey from producer to final destination. Exporting waste under notification controls requires more detail than is needed under green list controls. Include as much information as you can in your application, using annexes to give more information where necessary.

If you do not give enough detail, there could be delays in assessing and approving your application.

Your application must include details of all the transit countries your waste will pass through on its journey. Some countries define this very widely to include journeys that pass through territorial waters or stop at port, even if the waste is not unloaded. You need to check the rules for all the countries your waste will pass through on its intended journey.

Sometimes shipping routes change at short notice. It is your responsibility to find out which countries your waste might pass through before you apply for consent. If a shipping company cannot confirm which route your waste will take when you are preparing your application, you may want to consider submitting more than one application to cover several possible routes. You need to pay fees for each application.

Consider the timescales in this guidance and plan your application in line with these, as the process can take several months.

2. Decide how many shipments you will make

You can apply to send several waste shipments under one notification. The waste in each shipment must:

  • be the same type

  • start from the same load site

  • move to the same destination

  • use the same route

  • move on the same day

You need to tell us how many shipments you intend to make and the planned first and last dates for shipments.

You will have up to 12 months from the date of consent to complete the shipments, or up to 3 years if the destination facility has pre-consented status.

3. Find out if you are exporting to a pre-consented recovery site

Overseas recovery sites in EU or OECD countries which regularly receive shipments of the same waste may benefit from being ‘pre-consented’.

Recovery sites can apply to the competent authorities in their country for pre-consent. The advantages of exporting to a pre-consented recovery site are that:

  • the consent process is quicker

  • consents may last up to 3 years, rather than the standard 12 months

4. Find out if you are exporting waste to an interim operation

There are different fees and requirements if you are exporting waste for an ‘interim operation’. An interim operation involves pre-processing or storing waste at a site overseas before moving it to a place of final recovery or disposal.

There are 5 operation codes which relate to interim operations:

  • R12 – exchange of wastes before recovery

  • R13 – accumulation of wastes before recovery

  • D13 – blending or mixing of wastes before disposal

  • D14 – repackaging of wastes before disposal

  • D15 – storage of wastes before disposal

Codes that begin with ‘R’ refer to recovery and those that begin with ‘D’ refer to disposal. You can find a list of these codes in Annex I and II of the EU Waste Framework Directive.

If your waste is destined for an interim operation, you must explain clearly what the interim waste treatment involves. You must include an annex with your application with details of the final treatment operation and where it will take place.

5. Arrange a financial guarantee or insurance

You must have a financial guarantee or equivalent insurance that is approved by the Environment Agency. This makes sure there is enough money available for the Environment Agency to deal with the waste if the shipment is not completed.

Use the financial guarantee form to apply. Your financial guarantee must be approved before shipments can begin. The Environment Agency can approve a financial guarantee before it is due to take effect, if it is in place before any shipments take place.

The financial guarantee must be enough to cover the actual costs if the export cannot be completed. It must be enough to cover:

  • transporting the waste

  • waste recovery or disposal

  • storage for up to 90 days

Your calculation needs to reflect the real-world costs the Environment Agency would incur. For example, do not use preferential transport costs that the Environment Agency cannot access.

Any competent authority may ask for a copy of your financial guarantee or insurance arrangements. EU authorities may ask for a second financial guarantee or insurance. Contact the destination authority for their requirements before you send your notification to the Environment Agency.

You must give an address for service of claims for the financial institution you use for financial guarantees for export notifications. The financial institution you use must be registered in England or Wales.

The financial guarantee must be valid for:

  • 3 years from the date of consent for standard notifications

  • 5 years from the date of consent if the treatment facility has pre-consent status

6. Put a contract in place

Before you send your notification application, you (the notifier) must have a legally enforceable, written contract with the business that will be treating your waste (the importer).

This contract must include:

  • an obligation for the business to provide a certificate confirming they have legally recovered or disposed of the waste

  • an obligation for the notifier to take the waste back if the shipment, recovery or disposal does not go ahead as planned, or if the shipment is illegal

  • an obligation for the importer to recover or dispose of the waste if it is found to be illegal because of the importer’s action

If the waste is shipped to an interim facility the contract must also include:

  • an obligation for the final treatment facility to provide a certificate confirming that the waste has been recovered or disposed of as set out in the notification

  • an obligation for the importer to send a notification to the Environment Agency if they send the waste for final treatment in a different country

Some countries might have more rules about what a contract must include. You should check the rules before you send your notification application.

The Environment Agency, or any other competent authority with an interest in the notification, may ask for a copy of the contract.

7. Arrange third party insurance

You need insurance against liability for damage to third parties resulting from your waste shipment. This needs to be in place before you send your notification application. Any competent authority with an interest in the notification may ask for a copy of the insurance arrangements.

8. Pay the charge

The Environment Agency will not deal with your notification until you have paid the correct fee. Other competent authorities may also charge you for considering your notification.

The charge depends on:

  • whether the waste is being imported or exported

  • whether it is for recovery or disposal

  • whether it is for an interim or non-interim operation

  • the number of shipments included in the notification

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