Export and Import of Waste

If you intend to move waste from or through the UK, you must ensure all regulations are adhered to.

The regulations apply from the point of loading until it has been completely recovered or disposed of at destination. Since 1974, Unsworth UK have developed an in-depth, global knowledge of procedures, legislations and regulations needed to ship goods globally. Our team are happy to assist you regarding this where necessary.

Is your shipment waste?Export and Import of Waste

The first step is to find out if what you intend to ship is classified as waste product by any country involved in the import or export process. To help you decide if your material is waste, see:

UK plan

The UK has developed the Plan for Exports and Imports of Waste outlining the Government¹s policies on exports from and imports into the UK of waste for both disposal and recovery. The Plan for Exports and Imports of Waste intends to:

  • maintain a high level of protection, both for the environment and human health
  • limit transfrontier movements of waste for disposal
  • ensure national self-sufficiency (the country producing the waste should deal with it) and proximity (waste should be disposed of as close as possible to where it was produced)
  • ensure the management of transboundary movements of waste involving the UK is environmentally sound
  • encourage the movement of waste up the waste hierarchy and reduce overall waste generation

International Waste Shipments from the UK

Shipments of waste fall into one of three categories:

  1. Prohibited: movements are not allowed under any circumstances. This includes the majority of imports and exports for disposal, and exports of hazardous waste to developing countries.
  1. Subject to notification controls: on permitted imports and exports of hazardous waste moving for recovery, waste moving to be disposed of and some imports and exports of non-hazardous wastes for recovery
  1. Subject to green list controls: these are the lowest level of control and only ever apply to some imports and exports of non-hazardous waste for recovery.

Shipment of Waste for Disposal

Shipments of waste to and from the UK for disposal are prohibited, except in certain instances outlined below.

  • emergency situations: where human health or the environment are at risk, requiring the shipment of hazardous waste to the UK. Also, anything that may require the movement of waste from the UK to another country.
  • trial runs to or from the UK that test specialised disposal technology
  • shipments between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, for disposal operations specified in the plan and where the waste is generated and disposed of within Northern Ireland or the Republic or Ireland

Shipment of Waste for Recovery

The Governments two main objectives relating to shipments of waste for recovery are to promote international trade in waste recovery to benefit the environment and prevent damage to human health in the process.



If exporting waste from the UK, the exporter must:

  • apply with the relevant fee to the competent authority
  • put a financial guarantee in place to make sure enough money is available to deal with the waste if things go wrong, including the cost of returning the waste to the UK
  • draw up a contract for the recovery of the waste, including specific terms, with the business that will be receiving and recovering the waste
  • make sure insurance is in place against liability for damage to third parties
  • obtain all necessary permissions from the regulatory authorities (competent authorities) in all countries concerned before moving the waste.


Overseas businesses sending waste to the UK will need to apply to the relevant regulatory authorities in the country of dispatch and make sure the above measures are in place before the waste is imported. The application process to obtain the necessary permissions will take at least one month to complete and, in some cases, much longer.


Those wishing to import or export waste are required to inform the relevant competent authority of the details of the proposed shipment through the completion of a notification form and movement form.

Notification Package

Applications to the relevant competent authority can be made by completing a notification form and providing a number of other supporting documents as follows.

  • A contract between the notifier and the receiver recovering or disposing of the waste. There must be a formal contract between the notifier and the consignee for the recovery/disposal of waste, a copy of which must be supplied to the competent authority. The contract must contain the following information, clauses or obligations.
    • The notifier must take the shipment back if it cannot be completed as planned or it has violated a regulation.
    • The consignee must provide a certificate (no later than 180 days) to the notifier stating that the waste has been disposed of in an environmentally sound manner.
    • For shipments of waste for recovery only, the consignee must provide ‹ in the case of the onward transfer of the waste for recovery to another Member State of the EU or to a developing country ‹ the notification of the initial country of dispatch.
  • A financial guarantee or insurance policy covering the transport costs, recovery or disposal costs and storage costs.


Unsworth UK are the largest independent global LCL consolidator in the UK, with import and export services from over 1000 origins and destinations.

Use our online freight calculator Cargocost to get instant, competitive quotations. Alternatively, if you have an enquiry or require more information on transporting waste, call us on +44 (0)20 8539 8899 or if you would rather email Unsworth UK, please send us a message.