Brexit and Waste Management

by | Jan 29, 2019

What will happen with Brexit and waste management in the UK? As the country waits with bated breath for 29 March, industry is starting to prepare for a ‘no deal’ Brexit inasmuch as possible. While the government has issued assurances that they are implementing measures make the process a smooth one, it is unsurprising that the nation is preparing for any eventuality. One area that stands to be notably affected by a ‘no deal’ Brexit is the translocation of waste. For those involved in such waste shipments, it is suggested you become au fait with the predicted changes in the case of a ‘no deal’ Brexit on 29 March.

Current Regulations

The guiding legislation and guidelines on waste is predicated on the worries surrounding illegal waste movements and the burden on receiving states. This is particularly around the health and environmental concerns associated with such waste, as well as the requirement of waste as a raw material for recycling or recovery. The currently applicable international and EU legislation does not require a licence to be obtained for shipments of waste between the EU and the UK as union states.

The Basel Convention

Written consent is required in order to effect an international shipment of waste. The reason for this is to ensure receiving nations are appraised of the nature of the waste and can offer assurances around its disposal. The OECD provides the framework for its implementation around transboundary waste movement.

EU Waste Shipment Regulations

Under these regulations, waste for disposal may not be shipped to extra-EU countries and EFTA members and export of hazardous waste to OECD members is prohibited.

Transfrontier Shipment of Waste Regulations

Outlines the authorities, offences, and penalties within the UK.

The OECD decision

Classifies waste as green or amber according to risk levels – those that pose least threat to human health and those requiring control in terms of risk.

No-deal Brexit and waste management changes

A change in status

If no agreement is reached in March, EU law would no longer apply to the UK, which would become a “third country”  rather than a “member state” for purposes of waste export for disposal and recovery. However, the UK will remain a member of the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and bound by the Basel Convention.

Governed by regulation

Regulation (EC) 1013/2006 will govern the treatment of waste imports and, as a party to the Basel Convention and a member of the OECD, the international regulations contained in their rules would continue to apply.


The 27 EU states would be prohibited from exporting waste for disposal and mixed municipal waste for recovery to the 27 UK.


Imports into a member of the EU-27 and from the EU to the UK will be allowed subject to re-approval of the requisite licences.


While no changes are anticipated on green waste recovery between Ireland and the UK, as well as amber imports to the UK for recovery, imports into the UK for disposal and mixed municipal waste for recovery from Ireland may be affected. While the government is giving due cognisance to the UK’s shared borders, movement of this waste between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland hinges on the terms of the final agreement. Brexit may also affect the eligibility of certain waste types to contribute to Ireland’s waste management targets depending on the treatment of that waste. In broad terms, this includes electronic and electric waste, batteries and accumulators; municipal waste for re-use and recycling, demolition and construction waste for re-use, recovery, and recycling; packaging and end-of-life vehicles for recovery and recycling.

For the most part, the substantive requirements of provisions will remain largely unchanged and alterations to existing regulations are expected to maintain the operability of existing processes around waste shipments.

Considerations for those affected by no-deal Brexit and waste management changes

Assess consent

If you have received consent for waste shipments, their status may change subsequent to withdrawal – with consent potentially being void, requiring re-submission, or facing additional customs requirements and obligations.

For exports into the EU

According to Defra, the UK “would be treated in the same way as any other OECD country, or country that is party to the Basel Convention, looking to export waste to an EU country.” This would mean the submission of a duly reasoned request to the authorities detailing the reasons why and the inability of acquiring disposal facilities within its own borders. In the case of exports of waste for disposal, this duly reasoned request would have to be submitted by the government to the EU before the UK exporter can submit notifications.

Get to know customs regulations

UK exporters would be well-advised to apply the customs guidelines around waste imports into the EU.

Waste for recycling

The Green Control procedure outlined in the WSR and OECD decision remains unchanged.

Get advice

Keep an eye out for announcements and government notices, in particular from Defra. In the face of these uncertain times, it makes sense to get advice from the professionals and shape the way forward for your processes and systems to be prepared for any outcome. The specialists at Smarter Business are on-hand to work alongside you in planning and strategising around the current political circumstances. Contact Smarter Business today.

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