There are European and UK rules governing how you can ship waste into or out of the country.
The regulations apply from the point of loading the waste until it has been fully recovered or disposed of at the destination facility. If you fail to follow them, you may be committing a criminal offence and risk prosecution, financial penalties and/or imprisonment.
The controls that apply to your waste shipment will depend on the:
- treatment planned for the waste when it reaches its destination
- country of destination and the transport route
- waste type
Knowing this information will allow you to decide if your waste shipment:
- is prohibited
- requires prior notification and consent from the competent authorities concerned (also known as notification controls)
- can occur under Article 18 controls (also known as green list controls) – this is a lower form of control than notification, and mainly applies to shipment of non-hazardous waste
International waste shipments (IWS) or transfrontier shipments of waste are other terms for exporting and importing waste – they mean the same thing.
If you produce, carry, import, keep or dispose of waste you have responsibilities. You have a legal duty of care to make sure your waste is handled safely and only passed to people who are authorised to receive it.
Everyone involved in the shipment must ensure that any waste is managed without endangering human health and in an environmentally sound manner.
Waste shipment controls
Follow these steps to work out the controls that apply to your waste shipment and what forms you need to complete.
1: is it waste?
You must first find out if the material to be exported or imported is classed as waste by any country involved in the journey. If so, then waste shipment controls apply to the whole journey. To help you decide if your material is waste, see:
- Defra guidance on legal definitions of waste
- European Commission Waste Framework Directive end-of waste criteria
- Quality protocols: agreed end of waste criteria
You must then work out if the intended journey and destination for your waste is legal. All exports or imports of waste to or from European Union (EU) countries are governed by the EU Waste Shipments Regulation. Wherever else you ship waste, you must comply with the requirements of this regulation and import controls of any countries outside the EU. This includes any countries through which the waste will pass or dock during transport. See list of:
- EU countries
- OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries
- competent authorities of EU member states
- competent authorities of OECD countries
- competent authorities of non-OECD countries
Where the competent authorities disagree on whether something is waste, it will be classed as waste.
2: disposal or recovery
The terms ‘disposal’ and ‘recovery’ are defined in the EU Waste Framework Directive.
Importing and exporting waste for recovery is possible, depending on country controls, waste type and destination.
Exports or imports of waste for disposal are prohibited, save for a few exceptions described in the UK Plan for waste shipments. In these exceptions notification controls will always apply.
3: classify your waste
You must match your waste to one of the description codes listed in the annexes to the Waste Shipments Regulation. You may find it easier to use the consolidated waste list – it has all the annexes in 1 document.
You must include the correct code in any forms you complete for shipping your waste. If there is no code for your waste, you must describe it as ‘not listed’.
4: export or import controls
The controls are Article 18, notification or prohibition. The general rules are outlined below but you must confirm the control with the destination country.
Recovery in other EU member states
Article 18 controls generally apply to waste listed under a single entry in Annex III, IIIB or the mixtures of wastes listed in Annex IIIA.
Notification controls apply to all other wastes.
Recovery in OECD countries outside the EU
Article 18 controls generally apply to waste listed under a single entry in Annex III or the mixtures of wastes listed in Annex IIIA.
Notification controls apply to all other wastes.
Recovery in a non-OECD country outside the EU
Certain wastes listed in annex V are prohibited from export including hazardous waste and household waste. Check the EU (green list) regulations which set out the controls applying to waste listed in annex III and IIIA according to each non-OECD country.
If you export wastes such as packaging, batteries, end of life vehicles, waste electrical and electronic equipment, there is additional producer responsibility legislation with which you may need to comply.
You should now know if your waste shipment is subject to Article 18, notification controls or prohibition.
Use the waste export tool
Alternatively use the waste export controls tool to work out the correct code and control for your shipment. Be aware that it is a guide only. Before shipping always check the controls with the transit and destination countries or their government departments, customs inspectorates or official waste regulatory bodies.
Apply for import or export notification controls
- apply to the competent authority of the country from where the waste will be exported by completing a notification and paying the correct fees
- obtain consent from the relevant exporting and importing countries, paying any additional fees required by the importing competent authorities:
To export from England, you must:
- be under the jurisdiction of England or Wales
- apply to and obtain consent from the Environment Agency and importing competent authorities
and be one of:
- the original waste producer
- the licensed new producer
- a licensed collector of waste
- a registered dealer or broker with written authorisation from a producer or licensed collector to move their waste
- the holder of the waste when all the above are unknown or insolvent
For exports from England
1: get a notification document and a movement document
You can get these from the Environment Agency International Waste Shipments team:
The notification document will have a unique number for your waste shipment application. You will be given annex templates to help you provide the required information.
2: complete the notification
Use the guidance notes in annex IC of the EU Waste Shipments Regulation and this important information for how to complete the form correctly:
Insert the Companies House registration number (where applicable) and/or where the notifier is a waste broker, include the broker licence number.
Insert the Companies House registration number where applicable.
If you don’t provide an accurate waste description, the Environment Agency cannot decide whether to approve your notification application. This should include the method of production of the waste as well as its composition.
3: interim operation
Pre-processing or storage of waste at an overseas site before moving to a place of final recovery is called an interim operation. The Waste Shipment Regulation specifies 5 interim operations using these codes:
- R12 exchange of wastes
- R13 accumulation of wastes
- D13 blending or mixing of wastes
- D14 repackaging of wastes
- D15 storage of wastes
R = recovery, D = disposal
If your waste is destined for an interim operation, you must state the details of the waste treatment operations and where they take place, on the notification document. You will also need to complete an interim movement form before your waste moves.
4: financial guarantee or insurance
This ensures there is enough money available for the Environment Agency to deal with the waste if the shipment isn’t completed, including the cost of returning the exported waste. The approved guarantee or insurance must be sufficient to cover:
- transporting the waste
- waste recovery or disposal
- storage for up to 90 days
Any competent authority concerned may also ask for a copy of your financial guarantee or insurance arrangements. For exports from England and all non-EU imports, your financial guarantee or equivalent insurance needs the approval of the Environment Agency. Use the financial guarantee form to apply.
Before you send in your notification application you must have a legally enforceable, written contract with the business that will be recovering or disposing of your notified waste.
This contract must include these responsibilities, the:
- business recovering or disposing of the waste must provide a certificate confirming they have legally recovered or disposed of the waste
- notifier must take the waste back if the shipment or the recovery or disposal does not go ahead as intended, or if the shipment is found to be illegal
- importer (consignee) must take responsibility for recovering or disposing of the waste if it is found to be illegal as a result of the consignee’s action
There are additional contract obligations for exports to certain countries, and also where an interim operation is to occur.
The Environment Agency or any competent authority with an interest in the notification may ask for a copy of the contract.
6: third party insurance
You need this in place before you send in your notification application. Any competent authority concerned may ask for a copy of the insurance arrangements.
7: pay your fee
There is a fee which is payable when the notification is made. The Environment Agency will not process your notification without evidence that you have paid the correct fee. Other competent authorities may also require a fee for consideration of your notification.
The fee depends on:
- whether the waste is being imported or exported
- the purpose of the shipment, whether it is for recovery or disposal
- the band into which the number of shipments included in the notification falls
Fees for notifications of international waste shipments
|Number of shipments:||1||2 to 5||6 to 20||21 to 100||101 to 500||500+|
|Export for recovery||£1,450||£1,450||£2,700||£4,070||£7,920||£14,380|
|Export for non interim disposal||£1,540||£1,540||£3,330||£5,500||£10,600||£19,500|
|Export for interim disposal||£1,700||£1,700||£3,330||£,6,000||£12,900||£24,000|
|Import for non interim recovery||£1,250||£1,250||£2,700||£4,900||£10,600||£19,500|
|Import for interim recovery||£1,450||£1,450||£2,830||£5,500||£12,900||£24,000|
|Import for non interim disposal||£1,540||£1,540||£3,330||£5,500||£10,600||£19,500|
|Import for interim disposal||£1,700||£1,700||£3,330||£,6,000||£12,900||£24,000|
Fees are payable to the Environment Agency. Ways to pay.
8: check notification package
Check that you have provided all the information needed - this includes the details supplied in your notification, movement document and any annexes you may have completed.
The Environment Agency will return your notification if information is missing or incorrect.
9: send the application
You must send the originally-signed notification package with the correct fee, to the competent authority of the country from where the waste will first move. So if your waste starts its journey from England, the competent authority is the Environment Agency. If this is a repeat notification tell them the previous notification number.
Send your notification package to:
International Waste Shipments team
Richard Fairclough House
Notification package assessment
The timings and stages in this section are for waste moving within the EU. For waste moving outside the EU, the Environment Agency will advise you where any of the timings are longer.
Within 3 working days of receiving your notification package the competent authority of dispatch will check the content.
Notification package is complete
Within 3 working days of receiving a complete notification, the competent authority of dispatch will transmit the notification package to all competent authorities involved, and you will be told this has happened. If you do not hear from the competent authority of dispatch within 30 days of submitting a complete notification, ask them what has happened to your notification – they must provide a reason for the delay.
Notification package is incomplete
The competent authority of dispatch will ask you for the missing information. This includes payment of the correct fee. Your application will not progress further until they receive it.
The competent authority of destination reviews the notification package
Within 3 days of receiving the notification package they must check to ensure they have all the information they need. They may ask for further details, or ask to see copies of documents such as contracts.
Other competent authorities involved in your waste’s journey will also receive a copy of your notification package, and may ask for further information.
Once the competent authority of destination is satisfied the notification package is properly completed, they have 3 working days in which to acknowledge this by completing block 19 of the notification document. They will send a copy of this to you and all the competent authorities involved.
Please note that the time taken for a transmitted notification package to arrive by post will vary, depending where the country of destination is located.
The competent authorities must decide within 30 days of this acknowledgement to:
- consent to the notification without conditions
- consent to the notification with conditions
Any of the competent authorities involved may object, but only using reasons set out in the Waste Shipment Regulation.
The competent authorities will send you a copy of their decision.
If competent authorities of transit countries make no response within 30 days, it’s assumed they agree to the waste shipment.
Notification controls: how to comply
Your consent allows you up to 12 months to ship your waste. You can only ship the type and quantity of waste described in the notification, using the destination and route described in your notification.
If the destination site has pre-consent status, your consent may allow you up to 3 years to ship your waste.
Before the waste moves
- Check you have all the consents you need from the competent authorities involved and your financial guarantee is approved and valid.
- Ensure a movement document is complete in blocks 1 to 15 to the extent possible. Use the guidance notes in Annex IC of the EU Waste Shipments Regulation. Send a copy to the Environment Agency, the other competent authorities and the destination waste facility, but not more than 30 days before you intend to ship, and no later than 3 working days before shipping.
- Check the carriers you intend to use are registered and valid to carry your waste shipment in each country.
You must complete a movement document and keep a copy for every shipment made under the consented notification. A shipment (which may consist of more than one vehicle or container) starts at the place of loading and continues until fully recovered at the destination facility.
When the waste moves
The date when the shipment actually starts must be stated in block 6. A copy of the completed movement document and the consented notification document including annexes must go with the waste and stay with it throughout the journey.
Movement document: block 8
This is for recording transfers of the waste to different carriers during the journey.
Each new carrier must complete and keep a copy of the completed movement document.
There is space to record 3 waste carriers. If there are more, you will need to record the same details for each on an annex.
Receive notified waste: actions
For each shipment of waste that arrives, the recovery/disposal facility must complete block 18 of the movement form stating:
- if the shipment is for disposal or recovery
- date of receipt
- whether you accept or reject the shipment
- the quantity of waste in the shipment you receive
- the approximate date of recovery or disposal
- the name and signature of a person at the destination facility with authorisation to confirm the receipt of the waste shipment
- keep a copy of the completed movement document for at least 3 years from the date the shipment starts
- send copies to the notifier and all competent authorities involved within 3 working days of receipt of the waste
Reject the waste
If a shipment of waste arrives at your site in England without the notification and movement documents, or it cannot be completed in accordance with the documents, you must:
- immediately quarantine the waste
- contact the Environment Agency
If the waste has left England it may need to be brought back or transported to a different recovery site for recovery or disposal.
If the competent authority of the destination or a transit country inspects and rejects your shipment you must comply with their requirements.
It may be necessary for your financial guarantee to be used to ensure the waste is recovered in an environmentally sound manner.
Recover or dispose of the waste: actions to take
You must treat the waste in the way specified in the notification document. You have one year from the date of receiving the waste to do this, unless the competent authority of your country or your environmental permit requires it to be done sooner. Within 30 days of completing the treatment, the recovery/disposal facility must fill in block 19 of the movement form with the:
- date of the waste’s recovery or disposal
- name and signature of a person with authority to confirm the recovery or disposal
- company stamp
- keep a copy of the completed movement document for at least 3 years from the date the shipment starts
- send copies to the notifier and all competent authorities involved
You will need to follow different actions where an interim operation occurs.
The notification expires
- the competent authority receives signed copies of the movement documents for all shipments of waste made under the notification, confirming that all the waste has been recovered or disposed of
- or if earlier, the consent given by the competent authority reaches its expiry date
When all the waste has been correctly recovered or disposed of, you can ask the competent authority to release the financial guarantee.
You must keep all documents about the waste shipment and treatment for at least 3 years from the date the shipment starts.
Notified waste shipment doesn’t go ahead
If the shipment cannot proceed within 10 working days of the actual date of shipment specified in block 6 of the movement document, the Environment Agency will consider that shipment ‘cancelled’. Other competent authorities may have different rules on when a shipment is cancelled. You must tell all the competent authorities involved.
Once cancelled you cannot change the shipment date or reuse the shipment number.
Increase the number of waste shipments
You can request an increase in the shipments permitted on a notification but you must:
- send the written request to the competent authority before any extra shipments take place
- get written consent for your extra shipments from all the competent authorities involved
- not exceed the maximum tonnage detailed in block 5 of your notification document
You may need to pay extra – check the fees table.
Get a refund on a notification fee
You may get a partial credit or refund from the Environment Agency if:
- your notification is objected to
- none of the waste under your notification is shipped
You must make a refund application within 12 months of the notification’s date of consent. If consent has not yet expired it will be withdrawn.
Apply for a new notification
You may do this before your existing consent expires.
Apply for site pre-consent
If you operate a waste recovery site with a permit and regularly receive shipments of the same waste, you may benefit from having a pre-consent. The advantages are:
- no cost to apply
- the notification process is quicker
- consents may last up to 3 years, rather than the standard 12 months
Recovery facilities in England can apply using the pre-consent form.
Overseas recovery facilities must apply to the competent authority of the country in which they are located.
Import or export: Article 18 controls
Check your ‘green list’ waste for contamination
A waste which you may think is ‘green list’ may need prior notification and consent or may be prohibited if it is:
- not properly sorted
- mixed with a hazardous substance, for example, if a batch of waste plastic contains residues of pesticide
- mixed with another waste material which is more than a de minimis level of contamination and to an extent which prevents the recovery of the wastes in an ‘environmentally sound manner’, for example, if glass, metals, plastic or wood are in a consignment of waste paper
- contaminated by household or mixed municipal waste
Ship ‘green list’ waste under Article 18 controls
You can export ‘green list’ waste without permission from, or payment of fees to the competent authorities of the countries involved in the shipment, unless more stringent controls are required by the importing country (and it is your responsibility to check all requirements that apply).
Before shipping the waste: checklist
- Confirm the waste will be handled in an environmentally sound way at all times – you must be able to show that the recovery facility operates to human health and environment protection standards that are broadly equivalent to the standards within the EU. You may be asked to provide evidence of your assessment during an inspection en route to the recovery facility
- Make sure that the Annex VII document is fully completed and sign it – it must travel with the waste at all times.
- Draw up a written contract between the person who arranges the shipment (exporter) and the importer/consignee – the contract must ensure 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.
Complete the Annex VII document: checklist
Contact details must be in full - include contact name, company registered number if applicable, address, email and telephone number. Business confidentiality is not a reason for omitting these details.
The exporter in block 1 is the person who arranges the shipment and signs the declaration in block 12 to say that you have a contract in place. If you are a broker/dealer based in the European Union (EU), you must be registered with the Environment Agency, the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) 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 also have a personal or business address in the UK.
The importer or consignee in block 2 may be the recovery facility or a broker/dealer who is under the jurisdiction of the country of destination and has legal control over the waste when it arrives there.
The recovery facility in block 7 must be the facility where the waste will be recovered (if the recovery operation is R12 or R13, you must also provide information about the facilities where further operations will take place).
The appropriate codes for block 8 can be found in Annex II of the EU Waste Framework Directive (if the recovery operation is R12 or R13, you must also provide information on further operations).
After the waste arrives: checklist
- the importer or consignee and (if different) the recovery facility must sign and complete the Annex VII form at blocks 13 and 14
- exporters, importers and consignees must keep copies of the forms for 3 years – competent authorities can ask to see them