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Exporters report frictions in SEPA’s enhanced inspection regime

Some exporters have complained about a too literal interpretation of waste shipment regulations by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), warning this could lead to operators ceasing export activities in Scotland.

Adrian Jackson, president of the Recycling Association, told MRW that members were reporting problems with SEPA around waste exports. He encouraged the agency to engage with the industry.

“We are 100% against illegal shipment of waste and we are happy to work with SEPA to prevent it,” he said.

Exporters lamented a lack on clarity on the measures being implemented to enforce waste shipment regulations.

Paul Briggs, managing director at Mark Lyndon, told MRW that SEPA was adopting a too literal interpretation of a 0% contamination requirement included in European waste shipment regulations. He said one of his recovered paper loads had been stopped and allegedly branded as an “illegal waste shipment because it contained five cans”.

SEPA’s stand could lead major exporters to stop businesses activities north of the border, he said.

Colin Morrow, unit manager for producer compliance and waste shipments at SEPA, told MRW that he could not comment on specific cases, but said that SEPA did recognise that a 0% contamination for recycled materials was impossible to achieve.

“We take into account not only the amount of contamination, which is clearly important, but also the type of contamination, which is equally important.

“For instance, SEPA is likely to accept a load of mixed paper for export with small - as achieving no contamination is virtually impossible - amounts of contamination with other dry recyclables such as plastics; however we would not be content if this small amount of contamination included clinical waste, for example.”

Inspections at ports and railheads were conducted on a visual basis, he said. SEPA was willing to talk with the industry to promote awareness on export control, he added.

Since April 2013, SEPA had inspected some 60 containers and prevented nine of them from leaving Scottish shores, according to Morrow.

SEPA stepped up inspections and implemented a new strategy against illegal waste export to coincide with the start of China’s crackdown on low-quality import (Operation Green Fence) and in light of the shift to separate collections in Scotland from January 2014.

As part of the new strategy for dry recyclable such as recovered paper and plastics, SEPA intended to “follow the flow” of materials from MRFs and not merely focus on shipping.

“We have done 36 audits of MRFs, particularly those that deal with paper and plastics. We monitored the input and output so that we can follow the flow back upstream and downstream to identify where issues with qualities originate,” said Morrow.

“We are trying to identify the part of the chain that could do better,” he added.

SEPA’s inspection regime had also been beefed up in light of the upcoming waste regulations mandating separate collection of dry recyclables.

“Potentially there is going to be more recyclables in the market for export, at the same time with the likes of China’s Operation Green Fence, so we need to make sure that what is exported is fit for export and minimise the risk of repatriation.”

Readers' comments (2)

  • At least Scotland and China are following the rules . It's about time that England followed .

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  • The English EA have a comprehensive program to stop illegal exports and coupled with common sense the program gets to the bad guys whilst allowing legitimate traders to continue business.
    The vast majority of exports would be stopped leaving the UK if a zero tolerance approach was used as required by law, not good to landfill ,000's tonnes of recyclable waste because our enforcement agencies cant get to the real criminals.

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