Importing and exporting waste

Importing or exporting green list waste

If you want to import waste into the UK for disposal or recovery you must check first that you are allowed by contacting the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA).

Waste considered low risk to the environment under the Shipments of Waste Regulations is called green list waste. You can usually import and export these wastes for recovery without the need for prior authorisation. For example, you do not have to notify anyone before you import or export uncontaminated waste paper for recycling. However, you should check first with the NIEA.

Importing or exporting green list waste for disposal

Waste disposal includes:

  • incineration without energy generation
  • landfill
  • permanent storage of waste

Most imports and exports of waste for disposal are banned. Any that are allowed, including imports from UK overseas territories, are covered by notification controls. Read more about importing or exporting waste under notification controls.

If you wish to import waste for disposal you should get advice from the NIEA Transfrontier Shipment of Waste Helpline on Tel 028 9056 9742.

Importing or exporting green list waste for recovery

Waste recovery is recycling, reclaiming and regenerating substances from all or part of waste, eg:

  • converting waste into a raw material
  • using waste to generate energy

You are usually allowed to import green list waste for recovery.

The export of green list waste is subject to further controls depending on the destination country. You should always contact the NIEA before exporting green list waste for recovery in another country.

If you import or export green list waste for recovery, you must:

  • make sure the waste is green list waste
  • check the level of control required to export to a specific country - the export may be subject to notification controls or it may be banned
  • make sure the waste is not contaminated by other materials, preventing it from being recovered in an environmentally sound manner
  • avoid mixing waste types - use the correct European Waste Catalogue (EWC) waste codes and Basel Convention code for each consignment to identify each type of waste - mixed wastes are often not green listed

Guidance on the EWC and hazardous waste legislation.

You must also:

  • draw up a contract with the business that is sending the waste for waste disposal and recovery, this should include arrangements to return or store the waste if you are unable to complete the transfer
  • submit a copy of the completed Annex VII form to the NIEA
  • make sure the waste is transported safely
  • make sure you comply with any other relevant waste regulations, eg your duty of care
  • check and keep evidence that the organisation receiving the waste can recover it in an environmentally sound way using similar methods to those used in the European Union

If you are unsure if you are allowed to import any type of waste, or if you need permission, contact the NIEA Transfrontier Shipment of Waste Helpline on Tel 028 9056 9742.

Important: From 1 January 2021, the UK will become a third (non-EU) country.

Waste importers and exporters must prepare for changes to rules around importing and exporting waste.