Cautious waste sector welcome for Brexit trade deal

A cautious welcome for the trade agreement reached today (24 December) over the UK’s exit from the European Union transition period on 1 January has emerged from the waste and recycling sector.

Formal approval of the post-Brexit trade deal from the European Parliament and the European Council as well as the UK Parliament is still awaited, but there are strong expectations that approval will happen.

The Environmental Services Association said that a Brexit deal which enables the free flow of materials from 1 January “has to be a good thing”. The Recycling Association echoed the importance that it brings to the free flow of materials and also highlighted remaining challenges as well as costs issues around VAT.

Free flow

Jacob Hayler, executive director of the Environmental Services Association, said: “We are yet to see the details, any deal that minimises disruption and enables the free flow of materials out of the country has to be a good thing.”

“The Brexit process has been an absolute saga”

Jacob Hayler
Environmental Services Association

Reflecting on the past year, Mr Hayler added: “The Brexit process has been an absolute saga and 2020 has been horrendously afflicted by Covid, but hopefully we can all now look forward to a brighter 2021.”


Simon Ellin, chief executive of the Recycling Association, which represents a range of recycling businesses, many of which are in the recovered paper sector, said: “Given the current environment we face of Covid, Brexit on the first of January and then you add to the current situation the haulage difficulties and the lack of availability of containers, any certainty the industry can get to help materials keep moving without a significant increase in costs has to be broadly welcomed.”

“Any certainty the industry can get… has to be broadly welcomed”

Simon Ellin
Recycling Association

Mr Ellin continued: “The devil really is in the detail as our understanding is that businesses are still going to have to go through customs clearance which will lead to some delays and an added cost. And, we still believe that we have got the issue of how and where you pay VAT.”

Suez UK

John Scanlon, CEO of SUEZ recycling and recovery UK, said:  “This UK-EU agreement provides some clarity to plan that investment.  With a UK-EU outline trading agreement now in place, subject to ratification by both sides, and the upcoming reforms to extended producer responsibility, consistent collections and a deposit return scheme, the conditions needed to encourage our sector to invest in new infrastructure are coming together. Our collective challenge is to build the new systems and infrastructure that will deliver the financial, environmental and social change necessary for a true green recovery.”

Defra guidance

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has information available on its website about what has to be done under new rules from January 2021. The department has said it will be “updated if anything changes”.

Information is available at: Guidance – Importing and exporting waste from 1 January 2021. 

Basel Convention

Also from 1 January 2021, rules change around the export of waste plastics because of amendments to the Basel Convention. More details on at Agency issues Basel Convention reminder

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