The statement from the Agency said businesses in the waste and construction industries must ensure they deal with waste plastic properly to stop illegal exports.
According to the Agency, exports are frequently classified as ‘green list’ waste of low risk to the environment, but are often contaminated with materials such as mud, sand, bricks and wood.
During the last year, the Agency said it inspected 1,889 containers at English ports and stopped 463 being illegally exported. This, combined with “regulatory intervention upstream at sites”, prevented the illegal export of nearly 23,000 tonnes of waste.
Those convicted of illegally exporting waste face an unlimited fine and a two-year jail sentence. Construction firms could also face enforcement action if contaminated construction and demolition waste plastic is illegally exported.
Malcolm Lythgo, head of waste regulation at the Environment Agency, said: “We are seeing a marked increase in the number of highly contaminated plastic film and wrap shipments from the construction and demolition industry being stopped by our officers.
“I would strongly urge businesses to observe their legal responsibility to ensure waste is processed appropriately, so we can protect human health and the environment now and for future generations. It’s not enough just to give your waste to someone else, even a registered carrier. You need to know where your waste will ultimately end up to know it’s been handled properly.”
Mr Lythgo added: “We want to work constructively with those in the construction and waste sectors so they can operate compliantly, but we will not hesitate to clamp down on those who show disregard for the environment and the law.”
The statement from the Environment Agency reminded businesses in the construction sector that they should correctly categorise waste to ensure it is sent for appropriate treatment.
It added that if waste is transported via a third party, the company should check whether they have a waste carriers license or they could be found liable.
The Agency said construction companies must also check that the end destination site any waste is taken to is permitted to accept it and has the right authorisations in place. Businesses must also keep a record of any waste that leaves a site by completing a waste transfer note or a consignment note for hazardous waste.
The Environment Agency added that plastic exporters must gain prior consent from the regulator and the competent authorities in the destination country before exporting contaminated construction and demolition plastic.
Plastic exporters must gain prior consent from the regulator – Environment Agency
“Those involved in the export of such waste must ensure that it meets the requirements set under the relevant export controls, such as being almost free-from contamination; the destination sites are appropriately licensed to receive and treat the waste; and waste is correctly managed once received,” the Agency added.
The Agency said it “will continue to actively target those who export contaminated C&D plastic waste illegally”, including any accredited packaging exporters who issue Packaging Waste Export Recovery Notes (PERNs) against such material.