Bishop of Salisbury asks Government for figures on illegal waste exports

On 9th and 10th March 2020 the Bishop of Salisbury, Rt Revd Nicholas Holtam, received written answers to questions on illegal waste exports

The Lord Bishop of Salisbury: HL1788 To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (HL226), what assessment they have made of the proportion of shipping containers being returned following inspection; and what action they intend to take as a result.

Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park: Of the 42 improperly documented containers of plastic waste referred to in the written answer by Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (HL226) 38 containers have been returned to the UK. The Environment Agency (EA) are awaiting the return of 4 containers from Malaysia and these are due to return to England by the end of March 2020. The EA, as the competent authority of England, is overseeing the voluntary return of all 42 containers of waste however the return of the containers is being managed and financed by the parties involved in the original export to Malaysia as it is their responsibility. The EA continues to closely monitor the return to England and subsequent lawful recovery or disposal of the waste in the UK. The circumstances relevant to the export of these containers is currently being investigated and it is not possible to comment any further at this time.


The Lord Bishop of Salisbury: HL1789 To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (HL226), what assessment they have made of the effectiveness of sanctions as a means of discouraging the export of illegal waste shipments.

Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park: The four UK regulators have a range of enforcement tools and sanctions available in respect to waste exports offences. The Environment Agency (EA) has published an Enforcement and Sanctions Policy and it details how the EA make enforcement and sanctioning decisions including the decision to prosecute. The EA also have internal enforcement governance procedures to ensure consistency, transparency and accountability for all enforcement recommendations or decisions they make. These procedures enable the EA to monitor offending and the sanctions and other interventions they use.

The Government has committed in the Resources & Waste Strategy to review the regulatory framework covering waste exports. We will consult this year on actions to better manage and control waste exports, including through tighter monitoring and enforcement of the existing regulations and we will seek views on the effectiveness of sanctions as part of that consultation.

The Environment Bill also includes a power to introduce electronic tracking of waste to help tackle waste crime here in the UK and prevent illegal waste from being shipped abroad.

Recognising the difficulties experienced by some countries in managing imports of plastic waste, the Queen’s Speech on 19 December last year included a commitment to ban the export of plastic wastes to countries that are not members of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. We will consult this year on the date by which this should be achieved.


The Lord Bishop of Salisbury: HL1790 To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (HL226), how many successful prosecutions there were for breaches of waste shipment legislation in each of the past five years.

Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park: The Environment Agency (EA) is responsible for enforcing waste shipments legislation in England. The EA aims to make sure its enforcement response is proportionate and appropriate to each situation and the EA has a range of enforcement powers and sanctions available to it to secure compliance. The EA’s first response is usually to give advice and guidance to bring an offender into compliance where possible. Where a criminal offence has been committed, in addition to any other enforcement action, the EA will consider instituting a prosecution, administering a caution or issuing a warning. Any UK operators found to be illegally exporting waste can face severe sanctions – from financial penalties up to imprisonment for a period of up to two years. The table below details the range of EA enforcement action over the past five years, including successful prosecutions.

Illegal Waste Export Enforcement 2015 – 2020 (to date)
Financial Year Total Prosecutions Court Fines Imprisonment Suspended Custodial Sentences Cautions issued by EA EA Warning Letters Fixed Penalty Notices1 Civil Sanctions1 Stop/ Prevention Notices
2015-16 3 £30,450 0 3 0 9 0 0 168
2016-17 1 £1,800 0 1 0 11 1 1 150
2017-18 0 £0 0 0 1 4 0 0 160
2018-19 0 £0 0 0 0 3 0 0 238
2019-20 to date 1 £350,000 0 0
Totals 5 £382,250 0 4 1 27 1 1 716

[1] Issued by the Environment Agency


The Lord Bishop of Salisbury: HL1791 To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (HL226), what assessment they have made of how waste that is returned to its site of origin following inspection, or prevented from reaching ports, is (1) managed, and (2) processed, once returned to its site of origin.

Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park: The Environment Agency (EA) is the competent authority for waste shipments for England. The actions taken by EA officers when they prevent a proposed waste shipment leaving a site or leaving a port will be determined on a case by case basis. When EA officers stop a shipment of waste at port, they oversee the return of the waste to either the site of origin or to an appropriately permitted waste facility. Waste can be held at port until the EA are satisfied that those responsible for the shipment have put appropriate measures in place to manage the waste in accordance with the relevant waste legislation. EA intervention at sites of loading will include officers explaining to businesses why waste cannot be exported, for example if there is evidence of poor waste quality or paperwork issues, and this intervention activity prevents thousands of tonnes of waste from being illegally exported each year. The EA addresses the illegal export of waste using an intelligence-led approach and EA officers will continue to monitor the compliance of those deemed at risk of illegal export, ensuring improvements are made and future shipments are compliant with the regulations.