• Zero Waste Alliance Ireland

Brexit Waste Cross Border Impacts

Updated: Jul 16, 2021

Brexit will bring some unique challenges to the Irish Republic. But maybe, in all the political hype, we’re overlooking a very very obvious impact that we deal with every day unconsciously  – Waste movements, Brexit Waste movements to be precise.

By waste movements, we mean the cross-border transfers of Waste Materials in bulk that happens seamlessly today, like normal road traffic. But all this will change on Mar 30th, 2019 and it could be rather inconvenient for us to deal with the Brexit Waste era.

The UK’s Brexit clock is ticking since 29 March 2017  on  Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union. This means that, unless a ratified withdrawal establishes another date, all Union primary and secondary law (including Waste Directives)  will cease to apply to the UK from 30 March 2019, 00:00h (CET)


Just like Cinderella, after midnight the UK will then transform into a  ‘third country’ as far as we are concerned and this has big impacts for Cross-border Waste Movements.

What will still be allowed in Brexit Waste?

  1. WEEE Waste.Exports of waste electrical and electronic equipment for treatment in the UK  will be allowed and will be counted towards the waste management targets of the exporter on waste electrical and electronic (WEEE) targets. This relies on evidence that the treatment of that waste in the UK takes place in conditions that are equivalent to the requirements of the EU directives.

  2. Exports of waste batteries and accumulators for treatment in the UK is allowed. Similar to WEEE waste, any volumes will be counted towards the waste management targets of Directive 2006/66/EC on evidence that the treatment takes place in conditions that are equivalent to the requirements of that Directive

  3. Exports of municipal waste for preparation for reuse and recycling, and

  4. Exports of construction and demolition waste (C&D) for preparation for reuse, recycling and other material recovery in the UK. Again volumes will be counted towards the waste management targets of Directive 2008/98/EC  on evidence that the treatment takes place in conditions that are equivalent to the requirements of that Directive.

  5. Exports of packaging and packaging waste  for recycling . These volumes can also  be counted towards the waste management targets  Council Directive 94/62/EC  on evidence that the recovery and/or recycling takes place under conditions that are broadly equivalent to those prescribed by the EU.

  6. Exports of end-of-life vehicles are allowed and can be counted towards the waste management targets of Directive 2000/53/EC of the exporting country.

What won’t?

From the withdrawal date all exports of waste for disposal and the export of mixed municipal waste for recovery will be prohibited. So Irish mixed waste bound for landfills in NI or Incineration/Thermal treatment will be prohibited. This includes the millions of disposable cups we dump on a daily basis.

Next issues

So while there will be a lot of traffic allowed in relation to the permitted waste streams, those destined for re-use, recycling and remanufacturing,  the bulk of our General waste will be blocked from export. This is the typical unsorted black bag type waste collected from private homes and commercial establishments.

So who will police the waste movements? How will they be monitored? What plans are in place to adapt to this new dynamic in the coming months?

Well, think about this in terms of Cross-Border Shopping and Diesel laundering. There is a large density of Fuel stations in existence along the border region and Shopping centres.  Waste Management ‘depots’  could be the new Diesel stations.

Due to the difference in landfill charges between NI and the ROI there will be a big incentive to illegally transfer waste for disposal and so-called ‘ energy recovery’ in the cheapest location.

So expect to see a boom in Waste Management activity along the border regions in anticipation of the Brexit Waste bonanza.

If the authorities can master their briefs then the Incinerators and Cement Kilns located near the border region could be big beneficiaries, as landfill-bound waste cannot cross the border legally.

What’s the most likely Brexit Waste outcome?

On our previous experience, we would, unfortunately,  expect little real activity from the authorities to properly plan, police or regulate the emerging ‘wild west’ waste opportunities.

Will it impact the private householder?

Unlikely,  unless administration/licence costs rise or your current waste collector is depending on cross-border landfilling. If so your collection costs may rise.

How can I reduce the Brexit Waste impact on my bills?


The best way to avoid higher waste costs is to reduce your own waste volumes. Adopting a Zero Waste Lifestyle will be very good for your wallet.

For full details see the website of the EU Commission on waste policy

#brexit #brexitwaste #waste #wastelegislation

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