The Transfrontier Shipment of Waste Regulations 2007, which come into force on July 12, widen the responsibility for the shipment and increase the powers of the agencies which enforce it. It sets out offences and penalties, and authorises the Environment Agency, the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Environment to enforce them.
Offences include sending waste without notification, sending hazardous waste to a non-OECD country and sending waste for disposal abroad.
The range of people who can be held responsible for exporting illegal waste now includes any transporter, freight forwarder or any other person involved in the shipment of waste.
Under the previous regulations enforcement action could only be applied to the person who notified the shipment or the person who should have notified it. But now anyone involved in moving waste that does not have appropriate notification or is incorrectly labelled is potentially liable for prosecution.
The changes strengthen the powers of the authorities and enable them to serve notices on operators to request compliance. Authorities can also demand information notices from exporters to find out more about what is being shipped and to where.
Enforcement notices can be issued which request compliance with controls as well as prohibition notices, which stop any shipment in breach of the controls.
Authorities have also been given power to seize waste in cases where there is a risk to human health or the environment or where an operator is in breach, or looks likely to breach, a notice.
Commenting on the changes, Environment Agency policy adviser David Bradley said: By spreading the potential responsibility further, we hope that the system will promote an element of self-regulation. We want the regulations to deliver compliance.
It is important people are aware that they need to make checks themselves that what they are being asked to move is legitimate. They need to be aware of the type of waste that they are moving.
Exporter Chinese Emporium Trading managing director Au Chao Shu said that there are a few dishonest merchants who give the industry a bad name. He also expressed concerned about the changes: This latest legislation is intended to catch crooked merchants. [But] the power is out of proportion.
A revised UK Plan on Shipments of Waste will be published shortly, setting out policies on the import and export of waste from the UK for disposal.