Transfrontier Shipment of Waste

The law governing international shipments of waste is highly complex, not widely known and even less widely understood. Reed Smith LLP’s environmental lawyers are unusual in having in-depth, hands-on experience in this area.

The legal regime that applies when transporting waste across national boundaries varies depending on, among other matters:

  • The country of export
  • The country of import
  • Any transit jurisdictions
  • Whether the movement is by air, land or sea
  • The nature and hazard characteristics of the substance(s) being transported
  • The purpose of the shipment (disposal or recovery)

These variables produce a patchwork regime, which includes:

  • The Basel Convention
  • The OECD Decision
  • The EU Waste Shipments Regulations
  • The International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL)
  • Potential other regional and bi-lateral state agreements
  • Domestic environmental laws of the involved states

The ability to advise clients in this area also requires a detailed understanding of when the law will regard a substance as “waste” (a complex topic in itself) and how the law will determine whether the waste in question is hazardous or non-hazardous. Since most international shipments of waste are by sea, this area also requires and understanding of the interaction between international waste regimes on the one hand and the MARPOL Convention on the other.

Our lawyers have extensive recent experience of handling both contentious and non-contentious transboundary movement of waste matters in Europe, Asia and Africa.

That experience includes:

  • Support in connection with applications for prior informed consent
  • Responding to regulatory investigations of international waste shipments
  • The treatment of “off-spec” cargoes and the application of the ECJ decisions in Shell Nedereland Verkoopmaatschappij BV (C-241/12) and Belgian Shell NV (C-242/12)
  • The scope of the MARPOL “normal operations of a ship” exception 
  • The extent of liability of persons in the waste “supply chain” (see R v Ezeemo & Others) 
  • Advice in connection with the application of transboundary movement of waste rules to the offshore oil and gas industry