18 October 2019 by Joshua Doherty

Brexit deal brings port congestion optimism

There is optimism in the waste and resources sector that the latest Brexit deal agreed between the UK and the European Union will ease concerns surrounding congestion at ports if it is approved on Saturday (19 October).  

With no-deal Brexit preparations ramping up in recent months, there has been concern that exporters of waste could face major delays at the port as a result.

These worries were brought on by potential issues with Transfrontier shipment notifications, customs checks, and the general traffic congestion caused by hold-ups at ports.

Industry members had also said that RDF could have been prevented from leaving the UK, though Defra had always looked to ease any of these concerns.

Jacob Hayler

Jacob Hayler, executive director, ESA

In a statement given to letsrecycle.com ahead of the crunch vote in parliament tomorrow, the Environmental Services Association (ESA) executive director, Jacob Hayler, said that serious port congestion is a possibility under no-deal, so a deal which prevents this “has to be positive”, but concerns still exist.

“Under a no-deal scenario, the prospect of serious port-congestion and delays could have a significant impact on the movement of waste material with negative consequences for the industry as a whole and the environment. Therefore, any Brexit deal which prevents this scenario has to be positive,” he explained.

Mr Hayler added: “The industry has been concerned that congestion at ports would lead to RDF being prevented from leaving the country, which would have seen more waste diverted back to landfill in the absence of sufficient alternative, domestic, residual waste treatment capacity. This capacity gap has been raised as an issue by the industry for years, so it is hugely frustrating that government hasn’t yet acted to address it.”

However, the looming Dutch RDF import tax was highlighted by Mr Hayler, who said this will “likely lead to constrained export capacity”, meaning the industry is not out of the woods yet.


Simon Ellin, the chief executive of the Recycling Association, said the “devil is in the detail” with regards to the deal, but said that any situation which prevents the abruptness of a no deal will be welcomed.

“Certainly one would think it is a better scenario than the abruptness and uncertainty of a no deal.”

Simon Ellin, Recycling Association

“A deal will allow for a lead in time which will allow us to plan for when our exit actually takes place and this would, on the face of it, ease the huge port congestions we would expect in a no deal,” he explained.

Mr Ellin added: ”A deal should also add confidence to the sector per se. Significantly more material is being exported to Europe post-China and we know from our trading company’s (IWPP Ltd) conversations with several mills in Europe, that they were not prepared to commit to supply contracts until the uncertainty Brexit brings is sorted.

The deal will go before parliament tomorrow (19/10/2019).


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