TT Talk - Waste is complex - and can be expensive

There are many challenges in international movement of waste and scrap. Aside from essential safety issues faced when shipping scrap materials, including internal damage to containers, eccentricity of load, and secure stowage, there are significant ramifications for shippers or exporters of such materials, particularly if specific national rules and regulations are circumvented. Ignorance of these obligations is never a defence.

As an example, China announced, introduced, and implemented specific requirements relative to the importation of solid waste into Mainland China in August 2011 which magnify such issues. The General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ), 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 (CIQ).

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. (CCIC PSI certificate :

The guidelines categorise solid waste into three sections, specifically

  • those items that are forbidden,
  • import restricted solid waste, and

  • those 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 ‘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.

Additional to national or regional legislation, the Basel Convention, agreed and ratified to regulate the appropriate trade in waste, defines how such shipments are to be treated. Under the Convention, waste is defined as ‘substances or objects which are disposed of or are intended to be disposed of or are required to be disposed of by the provisions of national law’.

Thus, it is important for all organisations involved in the export and shipment of scrap metals 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. 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. Conversely, there are opportunities to exploit opportunities for well appraised media for recycling and enhancing sustainability for materials that re-enter the production cycle in the form of raw materials to industry.

Staff Author

TT Club