There are many challenges in the international movement of waste and scrap, and the ramifications for shippers of such materials that breach regulations can be very serious indeed. Ignorance is never a defence.

It is important for all organisations involved in the export and shipment of scrap metal or solid waste to understand national legislation relating to these movements, as well as the laws of the country for which the materials are destined.

As an example, China announced, introduced, and implemented, specific requirements relative to the importation of solid waste into the mainland in August 2011 which magnify such issues. The General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, is the responsible governmental body in China for the management and regulatory inspection of imported scrap materials, including scrap metal and solid waste.

According to the Law on Import and Export Commodities Inspection, and Law on Prevention on Pollution and Solid Waste, it is compulsory for all imported scrap shipments to be inspected by the Chinese Inspection and Quarantine Authorities.

The latest announcement, the ‘Regulation of Managing Importation of Solid Waste’, prohibits both the transhipment of waste via Chinese ports, plus the issue of transferable, or ‘to order’ bills of lading, under articles 5 and 8 respectively. The regulation equally articulates specific requirements that must be in place, including valid import licences, specifying also that the ultimate importing company’s registration certificates be produced. This certificate must clearly identify that the import of solid waste is for use as a raw material following recycling. A pre-shipment inspection certificate under article 25 of the regulation is essential.

The guidelines categorise solid waste into three sections: items that are forbidden, import-restricted solid waste and items that require provision of automatic licensing.

So why is all this important?

To put this all into context, the scrap and waste trade has recovered significantly following the global economic turmoil of recent years. For example, from the UK this trade can, for certain trade lanes, account for as much as 65% of laden cargo exported by ship.

While in the UK scrap metals used to reside under the broad terminology of waste materials for export, recent EU legislation isolates specific materials, including ferrous and non-ferrous metals, as a ‘product’ as opposed to ‘waste’, specifically where these substances can be recycled and supplied as raw materials to industry. As a consequence, article 6 of the European Parliament and Council Directive 2008/98/EC becomes operational.

Aluminium, iron and steel scrap, meeting specific criteria regarding recovery operations and purity as defined in Council Regulation No 333/2011, can be defined as a ‘product’, which may relieve certain industry requirements under Annex IV of the Waste Shipment Regulation (EC) No 1013/2006, the provisions of which should be carefully checked. Each consignment will still require a statement of conformity.

Specific attention to product conformity, description and type, and suitable audit trails of documentation, licences and registration certificates are necessary to avoid expensive time, effort, and the potential of fines or imprisonment.

In a global environment with sensitised media publicity surrounding issues of the environment and sustainability, companies can ill afford to draw attention to themselves via inappropriate activities, even through ignorance.

- Peregrine Storrs-Fox is Risk Management Director at TT Club

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