An increasing amount of the wastes you collect and process for recycling and re-use will ultimately be exported. As a result, you need to ensure you provide high quality materials for recycling overseas.
Waste streams likely to be illegally exported include:
- Poor-quality or heavily-contaminated secondary materials;
- Rejects from material recovery facilities (MRFs).
We are particularly concerned about recyclable wastes collected from households and processed through MRFs. The majority of illegal waste exports we have intercepted include waste originally collected by or on behalf of local authorities via household recycling collection services.
We expect waste management companies to act as responsible contractors to their local authority and other clients:
- Take an active interest in the quality of materials taken to MRFs. Work with your local authority clients to improve collection systems and site infrastructure;
- improve your understanding of what happens to poor quality outputs and rejected materials: where they go, how they are further treated and how to avoid possible illegal export;
- explore the use of audits to ensure you collect and retain information on, and evidence of, how you have managed the above issues. This will create greater confidence in waste management with local authority clients;
- develop your understanding of the constraints on waste exports.
Improving quality at Material Recovery Facilities (MRFs)
We are changing the way we monitor permitted waste management sites. MRFs are very important in the flow of materials into secondary markets. During our statutory visits we now seek evidence that you understand what happens to your waste materials after processing. We increasingly expect you to have environmental and quality management systems that:
- Retain evidence of material inputs and outputs.
- Audit the quality of material inputs and outputs.
- Provide an audit trail of your sub contractors.
- Identify and enable continual improvement.
The use of quality management systems is a key part of any business. The Environmental Services Association (ESA) has developed an independently-audited accreditation scheme for MRFs. You can find out more about the scheme and register through the ESA website:
Further information and advice
The Waste and Resources Action Program (WRAP) provides support to industry and local authorities on waste collection and management. You can access further information by following the links below:
WRAP’s research has identified the key factors that affect the quality of MRF outputs, available in a series of reports on its website. Those factors include:
- The quality of input materials to the MRF from different collection systems;
- providing regular feedback to local authority clients on levels of input contamination;
- use of financial incentives to improve the quality of inputs through differential gate fees;
- use of regular residual waste audits to identify contaminants and improve processing.
The consequences of poor quality materials
Our regulatory experience suggest that poor-quality or heavily-contaminated secondary materials and rejects from material recovery facilities (MRFs) can be the source of illegal waste exports.
Being party to illegal waste exports can:
- Result in criminal prosecution and significant additional cost if wastes have to be subsequently returned to the UK;
- damage your reputation;
- increase the costs of export as other parties in the export chain improve systems to manage their risks;
- undermine UK suppliers in international commodity markets.
The legal controls – the ‘green list regulations’
If you want to understand in more detail the legal controls on waste exports access further information from our dedicated international waste shipments team.
For further information about recycling overseas contact us on: 01925 542265 or email: