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There are a range of controls in place to safeguard human health and the environment from exports of waste. All exports of waste from the UK for disposal are generally prohibited. However, certain non-hazardous wastes such as paper, glass and plastic can be exported for recovery or recycling, including to China, provided the wastes are destined for genuine and environmentally sound recovery operations. It is in the Chinese authorities' interest to ensure that imported recyclables are tracked and properly processed in an environmentally sound manner.
It is for waste producers, including local authorities and waste management contractors, to ensure that their waste is properly managed throughout the steps in the recycling chain, including at its final destination. They should assure themselves that exported waste is in compliance with the relevant environmental legislation, including that which applies to waste exports, and the duty of care. In support of this, the Environmental Services Association in the UK recently launched a compliance scheme for exports of recyclable materials, which the Government welcome. The code of practice, which is part of the scheme, includes requirements on members of the scheme to have documented control systems to demonstrate that waste recyclables are recovered under standards broadly equivalent to EU standards.
The Environment Agency (EA) is the competent authority in England and Wales responsible for the regulation and control of transfrontier shipments of waste. The EA has a programme of inspections of sites exporting waste and has taken part in joint enforcement projects with other EU regulators as part of the Sea Ports Projects, which includes detailed monitoring of waste exports from the EU.
In addition, in March 2005, DEFRA wrote to all waste collection and disposal authorities in England reminding them of their responsibilities regarding the export of waste to the EU and other countries.