Will the EA’s attempts at halting illegal waste exports work?

The Environment Agency (EA) has set out new plans with the intention to toughen the regulation of waste exports and tighten checks at ports.

The EA reported that in 2016/17 it ordered the return of 170 containers to waste sites, preventing the illegal export of 4,000 tonnes of waste. In 2017/18 the EA inspected 1,012 shipping containers of waste at English ports and ordered the return of 367 containers to UK waste sites, preventing the illegal export of over 7,000 tonnes of waste.

There are concerns that the packaging recovery note (PRN) system is being abused and this results in the export of poor quality recyclable waste. Hence the countries like China are returning the waste, saying they are being used as a dumping ground for poor quality recyclates.

The EA said a review into the process of assessing applications for accreditation of packaging exporters will be carried out. Increased levels of information required to prove that waste is high quality and contains minimal contamination, are going to be implemented along with destination sites properly accredited with appropriate permits to receive waste.

The EA said it rejected 11 applications in 2019 while another six operators withdrew their applications for accreditation, claiming that the updated process meant they would be unable to comply with the Regulations “without significant business change”.