Call to end all waste exports to address waste crime is “ill-conceived”, RDFIG says

The Environment Agency (EA) chief’s call for for an end on all waste exports has been called “ill-conceived” by the RDF Industry Group (RDFIG), which says the ban would “destroy the well-established global trade in resources recovered in the UK while doing little to address the problem.”

Andy Jones, Chair of the RDF Industry Group, said: “We are disappointed that the EA is conflating the high-performing waste treatment and export sector with illegal activity.”

“The EA is struggling to tackle the important issue of waste crime, but instead of looking at its own failings, it proposes an end to compliant waste export. This will disrupt material recovery and likely increase domestic waste crime.”

“The RDF export sector is tightly-regulated – with financial bonds only released back to exporters once a certificate confirms treatment at the receiving facility. This best practice should be implemented across the waste export sector. Banning law-abiding activities because criminals are stealing our business makes no sense.”

The RDFIG argues that implementing a ban on waste exports will be ineffective at tackling waste crime and will reduce the UK’s recycling performance and increase the amount of landfill waste.

The EA is struggling to tackle the important issue of waste crime, but instead of looking at its own failings, it proposes an end to compliant waste export

In a speech to the Environmental Services Association (ESA), the EA’s Sir James Bevan set out how the EA and its partners’ aim is to gain the upper hand in the long-term struggle against waste criminality.

He said: “I think we should set ourselves the challenge of getting to a position where we process all our waste at home and end all waste exports as soon as possible.”

He said this would make it harder for criminals to exploit the opportunities that currently exist by “trafficking” waste.

The RDFIG says the way to reduce waste crime, including illegal waste exports, is “for the EA to fulfil its enforcement duties” and take a wider inter-agency approach. They highlight a report commissioned by the ESA that states the EA spends around £25 million per year on tackling waste crime. The RDFIG argues that increasing this spending is a more “proportionate response” to a problem that costs the UK economy £1 billion per year.

The RDFIG believes that RDF export is “already highly regulated”. Operators are required to place financial bonds with the EA to cover the complete cost of recovering waste, which “provides a significant amount of protection, and removes any financial incentive to mis-declare waste or send it to an illegitimate recipient.”

The RDFIG says: Targeting the legitimate waste sector, such as RDF exporters – represented by the RDFIG – is ill-conceived.

The RDFIG highlights that for residual waste exports a financial bond to the value of the treatment must be provided to the regulator equivalent. They say that the bond gives the regulator confidence the waste is processed legally abroad, so banning waste exports won’t impact waste crime but rather inconvenience legitimate exporters.

They also highlight the Code of Practice they’ve developed that covers the full supply chain, which all group members of RDFIG must adhere to. RDF says its exports “enable the recovery of resources and ensure that waste, otherwise destined for UK landfill, is treated further up the waste hierarchy in highly efficient EfW combined heat and power (CHP) facilities.”

The RDF Industry Group represents 33 organisations across the European waste-derived fuel supply chain, including several major waste management contractors and operators both from the UK, Republic of Ireland, and across Europe.

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