The Environment Agency has urged businesses which export “waste” to ensure that there is a proper assessment of the companies which receive the material.
The call comes in a statement issued on 19 June and is thought to apply in particular to packaging waste which can be sent abroad for recycling and receive an export PRN (packaging waste recovery note) which has a value within the UK’s compliance system.
In the statement, the Agency said: “We are working closely with businesses that export waste to ensure they act within the law.
“Exporters must ensure that exported waste is high quality with minimal contamination, destination sites are appropriately licensed to receive and treat the waste, and waste is correctly processed once received.
“We urge everyone involved in waste management, including waste producers, to ensure that robust duty-of-care assessments are made on the companies that their waste is sent on to, right through to its final treatment or disposal.”
The recent high values of PRNs, such as for plastics, have prompted some discussion in the sector of the potential for incorrect or wrongful issuing of evidence. Prices paid for plastic PRNs were as high as £350 a tonne or more earlier this year, although they have recently fallen sharply.
There are also increases in exports of plastic packaging from the UK to Turkey for recycling. The Environment Agency is understood to have observed an increase in exports to Turkey in recent months and is working to quantify this where possible in order to identify any Turkish sites of concern.
It it thought that this information would support conversations with the Turkish authorities. However, it is also thought that there is currently no evidence that any waste exports to Turkey have been moved illegally.
The Environment Agency says it uses an intelligence-based approach to waste exports, applying techniques used by the police and other enforcement agencies. Such work is carried out closely “with waste carriers, site operators and ports to identify waste exports, inspect loads that we suspect might be illegal and root out illegal operators”.
The small number of businesses that intentionally break the rules are targeted through intelligence-led compliance and enforcement activity, such as suspending accredited packaging waste exporters or prosecutions, the Environment Agency added.