Waste: import and export
International waste shipments (IWS), also known as transfrontier shipments of waste, are movements of waste between countries. If you import waste into or export waste from the UK you must comply with the international regulations that control waste shipments.
Changes in manufacturing and an increase in recycling means more household and commercial wastes are being exported for recycling overseas. High quality waste materials are a useful sustainable resource.
The illegal export of low quality waste materials can harm the environment and human health.
Before you import or export waste you must check that you are allowed to do so with the Environment Agency.
International waste shipment controls
IWS controls cover the movement of all waste between countries. This includes movements of waste between the UK and:
- the Republic of Ireland
- the Channel Islands
- the Isle of Man
- other UK overseas territories
Waste shipment controls cover the movement of waste from where it is produced to where it is recovered or disposed of.
The export of waste from the UK for disposal overseas is banned except in a few limited circumstances.
What you must do to comply with waste shipment controls depends on:
- the waste classification, eg if the waste is green list or notification controlled
- the country it is sent to or from
- whether the waste will be disposed of or recovered
Waste shipment controls depend on the classification of the waste you are importing or exporting.
The two main classes of waste under waste shipment controls are:
- green list waste which can be imported without prior authorisation from the regulatory authority
- notifiable waste which needs authorisation from the regulatory authority before it can be imported or exported, ie it is subject to notification controls
Green list waste
Green list waste is usually considered a low risk to the environment. Green list waste types are listed in annexes to the Waste Shipment Regulation. For details of green listed waste contact the Environment Agency IWS helpline on 01925 542 265.
Notifiable waste is considered hazardous or harmful to the environment. Notifiable waste types are listed in annexes to the European Shipments of Waste Regulation. How hazardous waste is defined for waste shipment controls may be different from the definition in the Hazardous Waste Regulations.
Waste considered hazardous is strictly controlled. To export or import this waste you need the consent of the competent authorities of the countries involved. This consent is called a notification control.
If you are considering importing or exporting notifiable waste you must contact the Environment Agency before moving it internationally. If you ship waste without the correct permissions you are committing a criminal offence.
The Environment Agency has developed a tool to help you identify the appropriate classification and controls on waste types intended for export. Find the waste export controls tool on the Environment Agency website.
Importing or exporting green list waste
If you want to import waste into the UK for disposal or recovery you must check first that you are allowed by contacting the Environment Agency.
Waste considered low risk to the environment under the Shipments of Waste Regulations is called green list waste. You can usually import and export these wastes for recovery without the need for prior authorisation. For example, you do not have to notify anyone before you import or export uncontaminated waste paper for recycling. However, you should check first with the Environment Agency.
Importing or exporting green list waste for disposal
Waste disposal includes:
- incineration without energy generation
- permanent storage of waste
Most imports and exports of waste for disposal are banned. Any that are allowed, including imports from UK overseas territories, are covered by notification controls.
If you wish to import waste for disposal you should get advice from the Environment Agency IWS helpline on 01925 542 265.
Importing or exporting green list waste for recovery
Waste recovery is recycling, reclaiming and regenerating substances from all or part of waste, eg:
- converting waste into a raw material
- using waste to generate energy
You are usually allowed to import green list waste for recovery.
The export of green list waste is subject to further controls depending on the destination country. You should always contact the Environment Agency before exporting green list waste for recovery in another country.
If you import or export green list waste for recovery, you must:
- make sure the waste is green list waste
- check the level of control required to export to a specific country - the export may be subject to notification controls or it may be banned
- make sure the waste is not contaminated by other materials, preventing it from being recovered in an environmentally sound manner
- avoid mixing waste types - use the correct European Waste Catalogue (EWC) waste codes and Basel Convention code for each consignment to identify each type of waste - mixed wastes are often not green listed
You must also:
- draw up a contract with the business that is sending the waste for waste disposal and recovery, this should include arrangements to return or store the waste if you are unable to complete the transfer
- complete an Annex VII form that travels with the waste and keep a copy of the form for three years - download an Annex VII form from the Environment Agency website (PDF, 30K)
- make sure the waste is transported safely
- make sure you comply with any other relevant waste regulations, eg your duty of care
- check and keep evidence that the organisation receiving the waste can recover it in an environmentally sound way using similar methods to those used in the EU
If you are unsure if you are allowed to import any type of waste, or if you need permission, contact the Environment Agency IWS helpline on 01925 542 265.
Importing or exporting waste under notification controls
If you import or export waste you must first check that you are allowed to do so. Importing and exporting certain types of waste to and from some countries is banned.
Waste considered high risk under waste shipment controls is strictly regulated. To export or import this waste you need the consent of the countries involved - known as a notification control.
How hazardous waste is defined for waste shipment controls may be different from the definition in the Hazardous Waste Regulations.
Importing or exporting waste covered by notification controls for safe disposal
Waste disposal includes incineration without energy generation, landfill and permanent storage of waste.
The import and export of any waste for disposal is banned except in a few limited circumstances. If you intend to import or export waste for disposal you should contact the Environment Agency IWS helpline on 01925 542 265.
Importing or exporting waste covered by notification controls for recovery
Waste recovery is recycling, reclaiming and regenerating substances from all or part of waste - for example, converting waste into a raw material or using it to generate energy.
Before you move any notifiable waste you should always contact the Environment Agency International Waste Shipments helpline.
Obligations when importing waste covered by notification controls
If you want to import waste covered by notification controls, you must:
- apply to the competent authority in the country the waste is being exported from and pay the correct fee
- get permission from the competent authorities of the country the waste is being sent to or from and any countries the waste passes through
- have a financial guarantee to cover the costs of dealing with the waste if things go wrong, including the cost of returning the waste and treatment, and insurance against third-party damage liability
- draw up a contract for waste recovery with the business arranging the waste shipment, including arrangements to return or store the waste if you are unable to complete the transfer
- make sure the waste is transported in a safe and environmentally sound way
- avoid mixing waste types and use the correct European Waste Catalogue (EWC) waste codes and Basel Convention code for each consignment
- check and keep evidence that the receivers have recovered the waste in an environmentally sound way using similar methods to those used in the EU
- keep all documents for at least three years
If you are importing waste, the competent authority for the country of dispatch (origin) will send the notification package to your competent authority.
Complying with the REACH Regulation
If you import waste from outside the EU and recover materials and chemical substances from it you may need to comply with the REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals) Regulation. See the guide on registration, evaluation, authorisation and restriction of chemicals (REACH)
Waste import and export environmental legislation
The websites referenced here host the legislation and may list amendments separately.
If you are setting up an environmental management system (EMS) for your business you can use this list to start compiling your legal register. Your legal adviser or environmental consultant will be able to tell you if other environmental legislation applies to your specific business.
- European Community (EC) regulation on shipments of waste 1013/2006. European legislation that provides the framework for controls on importing and exporting waste. Find the EC Shipments of Waste Regulation on the Europa website.
- EC Regulation 669/2008 on completing Annex IC of Regulation 1013/2006. European legislation that provides specific instructions for completing notification and movement documents under Regulation 1013/2006. Find EC Regulation 669/2008 on the Europa website.
- Transfrontier Shipment of Waste Regulations SI 2007/1711. Sets out rules for shipping waste, including within the European Community, and importing and exporting to and from countries outside the EC. Find the Transfrontier Shipment of Waste Regulations 2007 on the Legislation.gov.uk website.
- Transfrontier Shipment of Waste (Amendment) Regulations SI 2008/9. Amends 2007/1711 by introducing new penalties for failing to provide proper documentation when exporting waste for recovery. Find the Transfrontier Shipment of Waste (Amendment) Regulations 2008 on the Legislation.gov.uk website.
You may also need to know about and comply with legislation on:
- duty of care - see duty of care - your waste responsibilities
- waste carriers - see waste carriers, brokers and dealers
Find guidance about future environmental legislation on the Environment Agency website.
Environment Agency IWS helpline
01925 542 265