Businesses ‘frustrated’ as EA causes delays to waste exports

EWB has been told the TFS process is currently between seven and eight weeks behind schedule, causing issues for those trying to export waste from England

Delays at the Environment Agency in processing transfrontier shipment of waste (TFS) notifications have left England-based waste exporters increasingly frustrated, according to those in the sector. 

EWB has spoken to both the waste-export industry’s trade body the RDF Industry Group (RDFIG) and one of the leading businesses involved in exporting waste and understands both have raised serious concerns with the EA over its work on the TFS process. 

Waste exporter Andusia said it was currently the EA’s largest customer for the TFS process, and while it was working with the regulator, its business was increasingly being held up by the delays to a process, which is meant to take only three days to assess applications for completeness. 

Andusia director, Mark Terrell said: “The EA is very slow with TFS notifications at the moment and is currently running with a delay of about eight weeks, which is becoming increasingly frustrating.

“We are trying to work with the EA to make the process better and help them with applications. We think the TFS application process can be improved by streamlining the renewal process, for instance where this is just checking one that was approved last year, for example.” 

Terrell added that he had been told by EA the delays were down mainly to “a staffing issue”. 

The RDFIG, which campaigns on behalf of businesses across Europe involved in waste export and import, has also written to the EA expressing concerns over the delays, which it expects are “likely to continue until summer 2023”.

The letter, which the group has shared with EWB, states: “We understand that these delays have been caused by resourcing shortages within the International Waste Shipment (IWS) team, and although recruitment has brought the team back to full capacity in terms of numbers, it will take time for these officers to be fully trained.

“We highly value the EA being upfront and open about these delays, as this allows industry to try and plan around such delays where possible. However, we are concerned that a period of six months with significant delays (noting that TFS applications should be assessed for completeness within three working days of receipt) could have major impacts on the sector.”

The letter goes on to list the issues caused by the delays including, waste being sent to landfill instead of recovery, creating uncertainty which “is bad for businesses”, and  damaging the reputation of UK businesses in terms of commercial relationships across Europe.

The group says the waste export industry is currently worth about £0.2bn annually, and supports more than 3,000 additional jobs in England. 

The EA was contacted for a comment, but did not respond. 

The regulator itself is currently in the midst of industrial action with EWB last month reporting trade body Unison saying from April this year, the lowest pay rate at the EA will fall below the national living wage

Earlier this year, EWB also reported comments from EA senior permitting officer Kevin Rushden, which confirmed a staffing shortage at the agency. Rushden spoke out about why he was taking industrial action, saying: “It’s getting to the point now where we’re losing our most experienced staff, it’s really high turnover and we can’t get staff in to replace them.”  

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