11 June 2020 by Robyn White

WEEE cited as worst sector for export breaches

There were 2,586 European waste export violations from 2018 to March 2020, according to the latest figures from the European regulators organisation, IMPEL.

The regulators also highlighted that in terms of regulatory breaches overseas, 17% of shipments checked as destined for Africa violated the rules.  In terms of material type export breaches, the worst category was for waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE).

In its latest ‘SWEAP’ report, the organisation – which includes UK regulators as members – notes that 32,000 checks were carried out across 28 countries in Europe, of which 11,843 found waste to be in the shipment. SWEAP stands for the Shipment of Waste Enforcement Actions Project.

More than a fifth of the waste inspection results (22%) found there were violations of the rules with shipments subject to export bans, while 34% were for breaches of national regulations, or missing, incomplete and incorrect notification.

The regulators have looked at waste exports from the EU and associated countries including the UK

Statistics also showed that 18% of violations were administrative, including missing or incomplete Annex VII forms, needed for exports, while another 26% made up other or unspecified offences.

Waste streams

The report also listed the waste streams which had the highest number of violations. The worst category is for WEEE, with a figure of 362 violations overall, followed by plastics (330), metals (324), ELVs & car parts (224) and paper (175).

The report said that these were also the top five waste streams identified in an additional progress report in October 2019, although the percentages have changed. Batteries have reportedly seen the largest increase, increasing from 8 violations to 60.


IMPEL showed that violations within Europe itself, including the UK, had the largest number of violations. But, the findings additionally showed that 17% of violations of shipment rules were for shipments to Africa, with 432 violations in totally, while Asia saw 16%.

The numbers are rising for within Europe, explained IMPEL, because destinations such as for plastics are changing from Asia to Europe, probably because of Asian import bans and tougher restrictions.

Enforcement action

The report also listens the outcomes of these violations and how to take enforcement action.

It was found that the most common enforcement action to violation is repatriation of waste, which made up 27% of outcomes.

Penalties (15%) are the next most common outcome of violations, while 10% result in a ‘stop’, which means they are prevented from travelling to the country of destination and the waste is treated in the country of origin or transit. Impel added that they had no data on the outcome of 610 violations (24%).

Project aims

IMPEL explains that the overall purpose of SWEAP (Shipment of Waste Enforcement Actions Project) is to support the circular economy by disrupting the illegal waste trade at the EU level, among others by increasing skill set amongst inspectors and law enforcement agencies.

The organisation commented: “The inspections are considered the core of this project. They are performed at waste management sites and during waste shipments. They are coordinated Europe-wide, involve the ‘waste chain’ approach and focus on problematic waste streams and actors. Co-ordination of inspections are being completed through risk assessment and analysis of trends, patterns and nominal (criminal) activity.

“The SWEAP team is well on track to achieve their target of conducting 45,000 inspections over the course of the project. The waste detection rate has risen from 29% to 37% (from October 2019). This means the inspections are becoming more efficient, and are likely due to increased use of risk assessments and intelligence, according to their latest progress report.”

Related links
SWEAP report



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