European countries join forces to tackle illegal waste shipments

European countries join forces to tackle illegal waste shipments

Regulatory authorities from 28 European countries have joined forces to better tackle the problem of illegal waste shipments. Within the framework of the IMPEL project: Enforcement Actions II, more than 26,000 transports have been inspected. An average of 21% of the inspected waste shipments was not in compliance with European waste shipment rules. The violations varied from administrative infringements to illegal shipments of electronic waste and end of life vehicles.

IMPEL is an international non-profit association of environmental authorities in Europe. The network is committed to contribute to a more effective application of EU environmental law by joint activities. From October 2008 until March 2011 the Enforcement Actions II project has been carried out to promote and improve inspections on trans-frontier shipments of waste.

Trans-frontier shipments of waste are regulated by a number of international agreements in order to prevent shipments of harmful waste to countries that do not have the technology for environmentally sound disposal or recovery. In the EU the European Waste Shipment Regulation obliges member states to carry out inspections and to exchange information about illegal shipments.

Throughout the project 28 countries reported 26.705 inspections that were executed at random or as target-oriented inspections on roads, in seaports or on rails. Of these, 3.897 concerned trans-frontier shipments of waste. The inspectors discovered that 21% of these shipments were a violation of the European Waste Shipment Regulation. In approximately one third of cases the violation was an illegal shipment due to a breach of export bans or missing notification documents. This type of offense mainly concerned waste electrical or electronic equipment and end-of-life vehicles destined for Africa or (contaminated) plastics and paper waste to Asia. The other observed violations were contradictions with documentation and related national rules.

In addition 120 company inspections performed for verification purposes, have been reported throughout the project running time, with irregularities detected in around 50% of cases. As well as these coordinated transport inspections several countries reported over 200 additional illegal shipments to the figures above as the result of regular customs and police work leading to consultation of environmental authorities.

The results of the IMPEL project: Enforcement Actions II, show that significant progress has been made such as: active participation from most countries in Europe, the number of inspections carried out, the number of successful exchange programs and good practice that has been disseminated, the increased cooperation and participation of customs and police services with environmental authorities.

The fact that not all EU member states participate nor exchange information and the high rate of violations, however, also show that there is still considerable effort needed to move towards a level playing field and to close illegal “escape routes” (e.g. by port-hopping) from the Community. Physical controls could be expanded to a number of additional borders and harbours and regional and bilateral cooperation could be strengthened further. IMPEL will be carrying out a follow up project to assist European countries in tackling illegal waste shipments.

Enforcement Actions II - Final report