Importing and exporting waste

International waste shipment controls

International waste shipment (IWS) controls cover the movement of all waste between countries. This includes movements of waste between the UK and:

  • the Republic of Ireland
  • the Channel Islands
  • the Isle of Man
  • other UK Overseas Territories

Waste shipment controls cover the movement of waste from where it is produced to where it is recovered or disposed of.

The export of waste from the UK for disposal overseas is banned except in a few limited circumstances.

What you must do to comply with waste shipment controls depends on:

  • the waste classification, eg if the waste is green list or notification controlled
  • the country it is sent to or from
  • whether the waste will be disposed of or recovered

Waste classification

Waste shipment controls depend on the classification of the waste you are importing or exporting.

The two main classes of waste under waste shipment controls are:

  • green list waste which can be imported without prior authorisation from the regulatory authority
  • notifiable waste which needs authorisation from the regulatory authority before it can be imported or exported, ie it is subject to notification controls

Green list waste

Green list waste is usually considered a low risk to the environment. Green list waste types are listed in annexes to the Waste Shipment Regulation. For details of green listed waste, you should contact the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) Transfrontier Shipment of Waste Helpline on Tel 028 9056 9742.

Notifiable waste

Notifiable waste is considered hazardous or harmful to the environment. Notifiable waste types are listed in annexes to the European Shipments of Waste Regulation. How hazardous waste is defined for waste shipment controls may be different from the definition in the Hazardous Waste Regulations.

Waste considered hazardous is strictly controlled. To export or import this waste, you need the consent of the competent authorities of the countries involved. This consent is called a notification control.

If you are considering importing or exporting notifiable waste, you must contact the NIEA before moving it internationally. If you ship waste without the correct permissions, you are committing a criminal offence.

The Environment Agency has developed a tool to help you identify the appropriate classification and controls on waste types intended for export. Find the Environment Agency waste export controls tool.

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.