Importing and Exporting Waste: Here’s what you need to know

South Africa’s waste economy is estimated to be worth tens of billions of Rands per annum. According to Stats SA, about 90% of the waste generated in South Africa goes to landfills and only 10% is recycled. While there are increasing opportunities for recycling waste in South Africa, there are also other opportunities for exporting or importing waste to and from other countries for economic benefits. That said, many people and companies are either unaware or unclear about the legislative framework and the procedures related to exporting and importing waste in South Africa.

Until recently, the legal framework for exporting and importing waste was not yet formalised until the erstwhile Minister of Environmental Affairs published the Regulations Regarding the Control of the Import and Export of waste (GN 22 of 21 January 2019). These Regulations set out the requirements for importing or exporting hazardous and non-hazardous waste. Although the Regulations are not yet in effect, they however mirror an existing policy based on a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the Department of Environment Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF) and the International Trade Administration Commission (ITAC) which is responsible for export control measures. The MOU provides that ITAC will not issue an export or import permit on certain articles, items, substances or objects considered waste unless DEFF has issued the necessary consent letter and has no objection to the issuing of the import or export permit.

Requirements when applying for the import of hazardous waste

An application for the import of hazardous waste must be submitted to DEFF and must include the following:

  • a letter of request from the Competent Authority from the country of export;
  • a completed notification form stamped by the Competent Authority of the country of export;
  • a Waste Management License for the receiving waste treatment facility;
  • a contract between an exporter and an importer;
  • a contract between the importer and waste treatment facility, where the importer is not the owner of the waste treatment facility;
  • applicable insurance or other financial guarantee covering the movement of waste and environmental clean-up in case of an incident; and
  • a material safety data sheet (MSDS) for the waste.

Requirements when applying for the import of non-hazardous waste

An application for the import of non-hazardous waste must be submitted to DEFF and must include the following:

  • a letter of request from the Competent Authority from the country of export where applicable or a letter of request from the applicant;
  • a Waste Management License for the receiving waste treatment facility;
  • a contract between an exporter and an importer, and
  • a contract between the importer and waste treatment facility must be submitted where the importer is not the owner of the waste treatment facility.

Requirements when applying for the export of hazardous waste

An application for the export of hazardous waste must be submitted to DEFF and must include the following:

  • a letter of request from the exporter;
  • a completed notification form;
  • a Waste Management License for the receiving waste treatment facility or equivalent legal document in the country of export;
  • a contract between an exporter and an importer;
  • applicable insurance or other financial guarantee covering the movement of waste; and environmental clean-up in case of an incident; and
  • material safety data sheet (MSDS) for the waste.

Requirements when applying for the export of non-hazardous waste

An application for the export of non-hazardous waste must be submitted to DEFF and must include the following:

  • a letter of request from the exporter;
  • a completed notification form;
  • a Waste Management License for the receiving waste treatment facility or equivalent legal document in the country of export; and
  • a contract between an exporter and an importer.

The consent letter from DEFF must be provided to the transporter of waste who must present it to port authorities at the port of entry or exit. The importer or exporter of waste must also submit a movement document to DEFF at least 7 days before the waste reaches the port. The movement document is intended to travel with a consignment of waste at all times from the moment it leaves the waste generator to its arrival at a disposal or recovery facility in another country.

For help with importing or exporting waste contact:

Siya Mkhize (Partner at Shepstone & Wylie Attorneys)

+27 82 562 3674

smkhize@wylie.co.za