Last month, the Environment Agency charged nine people with offences under the Transfrontier Shipment of Waste Regulations 2007 and the European Waste Shipment Regulations 2006. The charges come as a result of a two year investigation into the alleged illegal export of electrical waste from the UK to West Africa. Over six million electrical items are thrown away each year in this country, amounting to one million tonnes.

The export of waste for disposal is banned except in very limited circumstances. The illegal export of waste, and particularly hazardous waste, to the developing world has received widespread coverage in the media recently. Coverage has focused on the dangerous and unsanitary working conditions of those treating the waste - very often children - who daily expose themselves to hazardous substances with little or no protection. Not surprisingly, the EA devotes a lot of its resources to investigating potential offences.

The export of waste for recovery is permitted – with the requisite consents - and over the last few months we have seen a marked increase in enquiries from clients looking to get involved in exporting waste for recycling. We are also defending a client in a prosecution brought by the Environment Agency which has a significant exporting element to it. If you are involved in exporting waste, or if you are thinking of getting involved, it is crucial you know what happens to the waste once it leaves these shores and that you understand the regulatory environment you are operating in.