10 April 2019 by Will Date

No deal Brexit concern puts squeeze on waste haulage

Exporters of waste goods, including RDF and recovered paper and plastics for processing on the Continent as well as for onward shipment, are waiting to see if there will be disruption in moving material out of UK ports in the days ahead.

With concerns across the sector, the focus is on Brussels today, where it is expected to become clearer this evening as to whether the UK is heading for a no-deal Brexit or a significant delay in the Article 50 process.

No deal Brexit could see Europe-bound trucks, potentially containing waste for export, queueing at ports in the south of England

Some within the sector have said that uncertainty over the UK’s status beyond Friday night has already made logistics challenging in the short term, with haulage firms concerned about vehicles becoming stranded due to no deal disruption.

Prime Minister Theresa May is expected in Brussels shortly for an emergency summit with EU leaders, where she will make a case for extending the date that the UK leaves the EU from this Friday (12 April) to the end of June.

If no agreement is reached the UK could leave without a deal on Friday night, which has the potential to create logistics issues at Ports – with an increase in customs checks likely to cause delays at ‘roll-on roll-off’ terminals such as the Port of Dover in particular (see letsrecycle.com story).

Freight businesses have already been warned to initiate no deal readiness plans for possible implementation this weekend, with the Freight Transport Association having today told its members to prepare for the ‘cliff-edge’ of a no deal Brexit.

James Hookham, FTA’s deputy chief executive, said: “The risk of no deal is still very much with us, leaving those businesses managing supply chains between the UK and the EU exposed to potential disruption and rising costs, with possibly as little as 48 hours’ notice.

“If logistics businesses are to keep Britain trading efficiently, their plans for ‘no deal’ trading conditions need to be made ready now, for possible implementation this Friday evening.”


And, speaking to letsrecycle.com today, Simon Ellin, chief executive of the Recycling Association, described the possible shortage of haulage capacity, as a ‘very real threat’ to businesses exporting recovered commodities to the continent.

He said: “Continental hauliers are making preparations for a no deal Brexit. A lot of the transport from the UK to Europe is done on a backhaul basis, their core business is delivering goods from Europe to the UK, and anything that gets taken back is a bonus.”

He explained that there is a risk that European hauliers would rather return empty vehicles to continent, rather than facing the increased cost arising from stricter customs checks associated with transporting material out of the UK in the event of a no-deal Brexit.


Greater concern has been raised within the RDF sector – due to the limits on storage of materials in the event that it can not easily leave the country. Landfill sites, particularly in the South and East of England, could have to take in substantial waste in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

“A large proportion of RDF exports are via roll-on roll-off ports and are dependent upon the availability of lorries returning to the continent after bringing goods into the UK. ”

Bethany Ledingham
RDF Industry Group

Currently much of the 2.9 million tonnes of RDF which is exported from England goes to the continent each year and storing of the material could cause local issues.

Bethany Ledingham, secretariat of the RDF Industry Group, which represents many businesses operating in the sector, confirmed that ongoing uncertainty over no-deal Brexit is impacting movements of waste.

She said: “A large proportion of RDF exports are via roll-on roll-off ports and are dependent upon the availability of lorries returning to the continent after bringing goods into the UK. We are very concerned that under a no-deal scenario there will fewer vehicles willing to travel to the UK in case they become caught up in delays at the border, and there would then be a significant reduction in vehicles available for RDF exporters.

“Even now, because of the on-going uncertainty, we are aware of haulage services being squeezed and this may already be pushing up prices. RDF exporters have been preparing for no-deal where possible, but as transport routes and ports of entry and exit are fixed under transfrontier shipment rules, it is difficult for exporters to make these changes at short notice.”


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