Imports of waste subject to authorisation reach new high

Federal Environment Agency publishes figures for 2008

Import levels of waste subject to authorisation broke a record high of 6.9 million tonnes (mn t) in 2008. On the other hand exports declined to 1.6 mn t. The greatest volumes of waste imports consisted of treated wood and contaminated soils (1.1 mn t each); in exports, the largest proportion consisted of 500,000 t of residual waste from sorting facilities. Wastes subject to authorisation are primarily those with hazardous contents.

There was a particularly sharp rise in the import of wastes destined for storage in landfills. Its present volume of 1.0 mn t has more than doubled compared to 2005 levels. Waste is imported mainly from Italy (740,000 t) and Ireland (220,000 t), and was largely shipped to landfills in the federal states of Saxony (460,000 t) and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania (250,000 t). Contents consisted only of inorganic materials as there has been a ban on the storage of organic waste in effect since 2005.

Imports of domestic waste from Italy, which attracted much attention from the media and was distributed to several federal states, were relatively low at 160,000 t compared to total volumes of municipal wastes. The domestic waste from Italy was either incinerated or treated in a mechanical-biological process.

The transport of the above volumes of waste was authorised and monitored by federal state authorities in charge. The state authorities review intended disposal sites for their suitability and keep records of the procedure in a movement document.

Illegal shipments on any larger scale were not reported in 2008.

Transboundary shipments of waste do not automatically pose a risk to the environment. Shipments between EU states are also a sign of the growing integration of Europe. The high rate of waste imported to Germany owes largely to the high standards of its disposal infrastructure as well as to economic considerations.

In regions close to national borders, a shipment abroad can facilitate recycling that is nearer to its origin than a domestic facility located further away. Smaller states in particular do not dispose of suitable recycling facilities for certain types of waste and would thus have no other recourse than to dispose of it domestically.

For wastes destined for disposal, the principles of proximity to origin, the priority of recovery and individual national freedom in choosing method of disposal are taken into account.

According to data provided by the Federal Statistical Office Germany, the trade volume of waste considered non-hazardous, and therefore not subject to authorisation (especially metal, glass, paper and textile wastes), was 21.8 mn t in 2007, and imports were 16.8 mn t. Germany’s major trade partner is again the Netherlands with volumes of 11 mn t for both import and export. The most significant non-European export country is the People’s Republic of China with a volume of 1.4 mn t.

The import and export of waste is internationally regulated by the Basel Convention; movement within the EU states is regulated by the European regulation on transport of wastes.

Dessau-Roßlau, 9 June 2009

Umweltbundesamt Hauptsitz

Wörlitzer Platz 1
06844 Dessau-Roßlau

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