April 2008

Cross-border shipments of waste increasing in European countries

According to a new study from the ETC/RWM shows that transboundary shipment of waste has increased significantly during the last decade. This increase is not only for shipments of hazardous, problematic and non-hazardous wastes but also illegal shipments.

In 2003, about 8.6 million tons of hazardous and problematic waste were shipped across European boundaries. Over 90% of this waste was shipped to other EU countries. About 80% were for recovery and 20% were for disposal.

The total generation of hazardous waste was 55 million tons in 2003, and the shipped amount accounts for about 15%. This is a sign that the EU is acting more and more as a single market in relation to treatment of hazardous and problematic waste.

Paper and metals made up the majority of flows of non-hazardous waste out of the EU in 2005, each totaling around 8 and 10 million tons. The vast majority was exported to the Far East.

The quality and reliability of the reported data on shipments of hazardous and problematic waste to the EU Commission is not satisfactory.

The codes applied for the reporting are the same as applied to the Basel Convention and these codes are too general to identify exactly what kind of waste is being shipped. If the codes from the European Waste List were used in the reports to the EU-Commission, it would give a much better overview of the shipments. In that way, it would also be possible to evaluate both the environmental and economic consequences of the shipments.