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MEPs propose tougher waste shipping regime

EU member states should be obliged to exchange information on waste shipments, and inspect cargoes without needing specific suspicion, according to the European Parliament.

A series of recommendations to the parliament from rapporteur Bart Staes also said that enforcement bodies should be able to make random checks and that inspection plans should be made available to the public as they contain nothing genuinely confidential.

MEPs have asked Staes to lead a group to report on potential solutions and will then take both these, and earlier suggestions from the European Commission, to agree legal changes.

Bart Staes

Staes, left, a member of Belgium’s Green party, said that in 2009 member states reported around 400 cases of illegal shipments of waste, half within the EU and the remainder to the rest of the world.

The most common reasons for illegality were lack of notification to the relevant authorities or shipments made contrary to prohibitions.

But Staes said the reported cases represented a fraction of the actual number, as three enforcement exercises between 2003-10 found 20% to 51% of waste shipments were illegal.

The number of transport inspections and violations varied significantly in the EU with France having 24 physical inspections and Poland 3,391 in the two years to November 2010.

Exporters of illegal waste sent material through countries with the fewest controls.

When companies were inspected rather than transports, 79% were found non-compliant.

“This points to the urgent need for more upstream checks of waste generation and collection sites to try to address the problem at its origin, and not only via border controls of shipments,” Staes said.

The European Commission has proposed that inspectors should be allowed to request proof in cases of suspected illegal shipments about the nature of the material or the recovery operation.

But Staes has proposed this should go further and “the relevant authorities should not need to have a suspicion to be able to ask for supplementary information to check the nature of the shipment or its destination”.

He also went further than the commission by proposing that member states should enforce a minimum number of physical checks of facilities and/or waste shipments.

Inspection plans should be permanently available to the public, not just upon request, Staes said.

“There is no sensitive information in them as such, as they will not include the operational programming, so publication of the plans does not harm the purpose of inspections,” he noted.

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