In 2022, leaders from the Environment Agency called for a ban on waste exports, as a means to tackle waste crime. These proposed bans ranged from just plastics to a complete ban of all exports, most of which miss the point of environmental protection and enforcement, according to the RDF Group.
The RDF Group has responded to these bans, by saying that an export ban would contradict Defra’s mission statement to protect the environment and contribute to economic growth, and would not enable stronger enforcement from the EA.
In October, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chair, Labour’s Dame Meg Hillier, said: "Currently [Defra’s] approach to large parts of waste crime is closer to decriminalisation."
The RDF Group therefore believe that preventing waste from leaving a country with an 'endemic waste crime problem' should not be conflated with tackling waste crime.
On the contrary, ESA’s 2021 report identified that the national annual cost of waste crime has risen to nearly £1billion, with domestic fly-tipping and illegal waste sites together accounting for over half of the overall impact of waste crime. In contrast, illegal exports contribute just 5%.
The RDFIG is calling for a sound regulatory framework, as well as a more robust enforcement presence, to ensure waste is properly managed, whether domestically or exported.
As an example of how to tackle waste crime, the Group cites the amber system of prior notification and consent which controls WDF shipments.
This includes a financial bond mechanism, where operator payments are only released back to exporters once the receiving facility confirms treatment, which has ensured high levels of compliance for many years across the WDF sector.
Apart from landfill, this is the only part of the UK’s waste management system that is subject to bonds. This system is an excellent blueprint for enhancing compliance across the sector as a whole.
Andy Jones, Chair of the RDF Industry Group said: "What matters most is optimal environmental outcomes and that waste crime is tackled effectively, whether domestically or abroad. Export bans are not the right measure, and would have the opposite effect in some cases.“
To hear more about this topic, book onto the EfW Conference 2023 where Andy Jones, managing director of the RDF Industry group will be discussing the RDF market - how is it changing and what is the longer term outlook for the industry?