Posts Tagged Export

Regina v Biffa: Jury instructions and the Basel export ban.

[2019] EWCA Crim 20 Regina v BIFFA Waste Services is a rare example of interlocutory appeal concerning jury instruction and summing up. It involves Regulation 1013/2006, the Waste shipments Regulation, particularly the EU’s enforcement of the ‘Basel Ban‘: the ban on exports of hazardous wastes destined for disposal in non-OECD countries.

The only real point arising on appeal is whether (contrary to the judge’s approach at Crown Court) the prosecution was to be required to show not just that a shipment of wastes was not ‘Green List’ wastes but rather household (domestic) wastes, but in addition, to prove that the waste was contaminated by other materials to an extent which prevented the recovery of waste in an ‘environmentally sound manner’ (the general Basel condition for exports); and whether the jury was to be instructed in the summing-up accordingly.

The containers in question were to form part of a larger consignment of containers (448 in total) destined for China. In May and early June 2015 they were the subject of interception and examination at the port of Felixstowe by officials of the Environment Agency. It is asserted that such examination revealed that these particular containers, or some of them, included significant contamination by items which were not mixed paper items at all; for example, soiled nappies and sanitary wear, sealed bags of excrement, clothing, food packaging, plastic bottles and so on. It is asserted that this was indicative of the consignments being mixed household waste rather than mixed paper waste: it being common ground that household waste, as such, could not be lawfully exported in this way to China.

Of particular specific relevance for the appeal is Recital (28)  of the Waste Shipments Regulation which provides “It is also necessary, in order to protect the environment of the countries concerned, to clarify the scope of the prohibition of exports of hazardous waste destined for recovery in a country to which the OECD Decision does not apply, also laid down in accordance with the Basel Convention. In particular, it is necessary to clarify the list of waste to which that prohibition applies and to ensure that it also includes waste listed in Annex II to the Basel Convention, namely waste collected from households and residues from the incineration of household waste.”

Davis LJ at 33 deals swiftly with the issue. Appreciating that plenty could be said about the precise application of the Regulation, he nevertheless simply points to the prosecution’s intention. They have never sought to say that these were consignments which were indeed essentially Heading B3020 waste paper but nevertheless contaminated by other materials not collected from households (for example, corrosive fluids or dangerous metals etc). so as to prevent recovery of the waste in an environmentally safe manner. They had relied solely on showing the jury that the shipment was not paper waste. If it was, then the waste in question could not be B3020 waste paper (which is within the “green” list of waste which may legitimately be exported). If it was proved that the relevant consignments were indeed heading Y46 waste (household waste) instead, then that was within Article 36(1)(b) of the Regulation and that was the end of the matter. If, on the other hand, the prosecution failed to prove that the relevant consignments were indeed Y46, then that too was the end of the matter and the defendant was entitled to be acquitted.

At 36 he ends with congratulatory remarks to judge Auerbach at Crown Court:

In a matter which is by no means the common currency of Crown Courts, he speedily produced a comprehensive reserved written ruling which set out in full detail the legislative background and authorities; fully analysed and discussed the competing arguments; and explained the reasons for his conclusion with crystal clarity. It is just because of the care and detail underpinning his ruling that this court has been able to approach matters rather more succinctly than otherwise might have been the case.’

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU Waste Law, 2nd ed 2015, Chapter 4.

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TPS-NOLO (Geobal): CJEU on take-back of ‘waste’, relation with REACH.

As I discussed with Stephen Gardner in Bloomberg Environment, the CJEU held yesterday in C-399/17 EC v Czech Republic, where the question is whether the Czech Republic has infringed the waste shipments Regulation 1013/2006 by refusing to take back a substance known as TPS-NOLO (or Geobal) that had been shipped to Poland without respecting the requisite formalities of the Waste Shipment Regulation.

Approximately 20 000 tonnes of TPS-NOLO (Geobal) and composed of tar acid, a remnant after refining oil (code 05 01 07* of the European waste catalogue), of carbon dust and of calcium oxide. Poland considered the substance to be hazardous waste classified in Annex IV to the Waste Shipment Regulation (‘Waste tarry residues (excluding asphalt cements) arising from refining, distillation and any pyrolitic treatment of organic materials’).  The Czech citizen responsible for the shipment to Poland presented the standards adopted by the company as well as proof that the substance in question was registered under the REACH Regulation and that it was used as fuel.

Wahl AG had suggested inadmissability, as I discuss here. The Court however disagreed, and on substance dismissed the EC action in five steps summarised very well in its case-summary. Of note in particular with respect to the REACH /WFD relation is that the Court holds that while the EC is right in being sceptical about WFD evasion via REACH (not that straightforward an assumption, given the cumbersome implications of REACH compliance), the Commission needs to bring specific evidence to the table rather than mere speculation.

Not an earth-shattering case yet a relevant one also with a view to circular economy debates, where REACH’ data requirements are an important concern for recyclers.

Geert.

Handbook of EU Waste law, 2nd ed. 2015, OUP, i.a.at para 1.201.

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Wahl AG proposes inadmissability in TPS-NOLO (Geobal): Take-back of ‘waste’, relation with REACH.

Another interesting waste-case at the CJEU last week, although unfortunately one in which Wahl AG proposes inadmissibility. In C-399/17 EC v Czech Republic, the question is whether the Czech Republic has infringed the waste shipments Regulation 1013/2006 by refusing to take back a substance known as TPS-NOLO (or Geobal) that had been shipped to Poland without respecting the requisite formalities of the Waste Shipment Regulation.

Approximately 20 000 tonnes of TPS-NOLO (Geobal) and composed of tar acid, a remnant after refining oil (code 05 01 07* of the European waste catalogue), of carbon dust and of calcium oxide. Poland considered the substance to be hazardous waste classified in Annex IV to the Waste Shipment Regulation (‘Waste tarry residues (excluding asphalt cements) arising from refining, distillation and any pyrolitic treatment of organic materials’).  The Czech citizen responsible for the shipment to Poland presented the standards adopted by the company as well as proof that the substance in question was registered under the REACH Regulation and that it was used as fuel.

The case raises interesting issues therefore on the relationship between REACH and Waste, on which I have written briefly inter alia here and, more extensively and with Dr Thomas de Romph, here. At 3 already, Wahl signals that his Opinion will not however lead to findings on the merits of the case: ‘ Finding that there was no infringement in the present case could potentially weaken the effectiveness and enforceability of the Waste Shipment Regulation, whose main and predominant object and component is protection of the environment. However, courts are guided, first and foremost, by procedural principles that ensure a due process in each individual case. Those principles cannot be sacrificed in order to further a greater cause, as noble as it might be.’

The due process issues essentially relate to the European Commission’s handling of the infringement procedure, in which, the AG suggests proprio motu,  it did not formulate a proper statement of claim. Details are in the Opinion and readers are best referred to it.

Now, there is no such thing as double jeopardy when it comes to infringement proceedings hence one can only hope that the Commission services will reinitiate the proceedings (lest of course the CJEU disagree with the AG’s Opinion).

Geert.

Handbook of EU Waste law, 2nd ed. 2015, OUP, i.a.at para 1.201.

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Arica Victims v Boliden Mineral. Lex causae and export of toxic waste.

‘Reading’ Arica Victims v Boliden Mineral (I have a copy of the case, but not yet a link to ECLI or other database; however there’s a good uncommented summary of the judgment here] leaves me frustrated simply for my lack of understanding of Swedish. Luckily Matilda Hellstorm at Lindahl has good review here (including a hyperlink to her earlier posting which alerted me to the case in 2017).

Boliden Mineral exported toxic waste to Chile in the ’80s, prior to either Basel or EU or OECD restraints (or indeed bans) kicking in. A first issue for consideration was determination of lex causae. Rome II does not apply ratione temporis (it only applies to tortious events occurring after its date of entry into force) – residual Swedish private international law applies, which determined lex causae as lex loci damni. The Court found this to include statute of limitation. This would have been 10 years under Swedish law, and a more generous (in Matilda’s report undefined) period under Chilean law. Statute of limitation therefore following lex causae – not lex fori.

Despite this being good for claimants, the case nevertheless failed. The Swedish court found against liability (for the reasons listed in Matilda’s report). (With a small exception seemingly relating to negligence in seeing waste being uncovered). Proof of causality seems to have been the biggest factor in not finding liability.

Leave to appeal has been applied for.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU Private International Law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 8.

 

 

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Belgian Council of State highlights authorities’ duty of care in assessing BAT (Export of waste).

The Belgian Council of State (the highest administrative court) has annulled the Flemish waste agency’s export permit in the so-called ‘Slufter’ case, involving large quantities of toxic dredging spoil (for the aficionados: classified as EURAL 17 05 05*; ia with heavy doses of tributyltin – TBT) dredged from the port of Antwerp. The case made by applicants was that the waste would be disposed of in the port of Rotterdam’s ‘slufter’ by way of mere dumping, as opposed to processing ‘at home’ in the Flemish region.

At issue was Article 11 of the Waste shipments Regulation 1013/2006, which allows Member States of export to object to planned shipments of waste destined for disposal. Applicants’ case was that the Flemish waste agency – OVAM should have disallowed the shipment on the basis of the proximity and the self-sufficiency principles. OVAM however pointed out that even if in optimal circumstances, processing in Flanders could lead to higher rates of recovery of the waste, much of it would still simply have to be landfilled. Importantly, it preferred disposal in the Slufter on the basis that the logistics chain was much shorter: load up, transport, dump. As opposed to load up, transport to processing facility for partial recovery (involving three separate processes); load-up of the solid waste left; transport and dump.

The Council of State ruled at the end of May that this decision by OVAM, in particular the reliance of the extent of the logistics chain, lacks proper assessment of the Best Available Technologies for dredging spoil, hence leading to insufficient assessment of the proximity and self-sufficiency principles. The ruling is relevant also with a view to the remainder of the spoil that will continue to be dredged.

For easy of reference (for those wishing to locate copy of the ruling): case numbers are 238220 -238224 included).

Geert.

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RERA: a weee chance of US Basel ratification?

Many thanks to Gideon Kracov for pointing this out to me: the proposed Responsible Electronics Recycling Act (a private member’s Bill) would install an EU-type regime on the export of electric and electronic waste outside of the US. The US have signed but not  ratified the Basel Convention : RERA would amount to implementation of the Convention in practice. The Bill also recognises the relevance of recovering the many rare earth materials contained in WEEE.

Here’s the blurb (the official summary of the Bill, in fact):

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Introduced in House (07/23/2013)

Responsible Electronics Recycling Act – Amends the Solid Waste Disposal Act to: (1) prohibit the export of restricted electronic waste to countries that are not members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) or the European Union (EU), or Liechtenstein; (2) require the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop and promulgate procedures for identifying certain electronic equipment as well as additional restricted toxic materials contained in such equipment which poses a potential hazard to human health or the environment; and (3) establish criminal penalties for knowingly exporting restricted electronic waste in violation of this Act. Allows certain exceptions to such export ban.

Defines “restricted electronic waste” to include electronic equipment (excluding parts of a motor vehicle), such as computers, televisions, printers, copiers, video game systems, telephones, and similar used electronic products, that contain cathode ray tubes, batteries, switches, and other parts containing lead, cadmium, mercury, organic solvents, hexavalent chromium, beryllium, or other toxic ingredients.

Requires persons who handle restricted electronic wastes to permit appropriate EPA and state officials access to such wastes upon request.

Directs the Secretary of Energy to establish a competitive research application program to provide grants for research in the recovering and recycling of critical minerals and rare earth elements found in electronic devices.

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Let them stop eating pollution – The European ban on beaching of EU ships

When teaching International Environmental Law, I tend to at some point in the proceedings have the students ponder Lawrence Summers’ 1992 ‘Let them eat pollution‘ memo. It is a document most wonderful to teach basic economics, internalisation (or lack thereof) of externalities, morality in international trade, comparative advantage etc etc. As well as some history (remember Marie Antoinette, anyone?) and the myths surrounding quotes (qu’ils mangent de la brioche).

The EU have recently decided no longer to let developing countries recycle EU-registered ships through ‘beaching’: basically, one towes a discarded ship, typically with plenty of toxic substances on board or integrated in the ship’s build, unto a beach in a developing country, where subsequently the ship is dismantled without much regard to environmental control of occupational health and safety issues.

The long struggle to regulate the trade is a good example of the challenges of positive harmonisation in international environmental law. For instance, the definition of ‘waste’ as applied to a disused ship long differed between the EU (waste as soon as it is no longer used for its original purpose), the International maritime organisation (no waste as long as it can float) and the Basel Convention (reference to ‘discard’ and to national law). The 2009 Hong Kong Convention aims to address the challenges. This Convention has now been implemented by the EU, who have reportedly ‘gold plated’ it: i.e. the EU have gone beyond what is required under the Convention.

Some details of the scheme may be found here (Irish Presidency of the EU) – the text itself is not yet available. The regime uses a core element of the regime of the Basel Convention on the transboundary shipments of hazardous wastes and their disposal: i.e. employ export authorities in the ‘developed’ world, to only allow exports to ‘developing’ countries when conditions in the latter are deemed sufficiently safe from the workers’ and the environment’s point of view. In the case of the ship recycling regime, this is done by only allowing export of EU-flagged waste ships if they are to be dismantled in facilities that have been approved by the EU.

Plenty of complications remain: this includes the compatibility of the regime with the Basel Convention, and with international trade law; the problem of enforcement and inspection; and the possibility of circumvention by switching flag state.

Geert. Postscript July 2014: the Regulation was eventually adopted as Regulation 1257/2013.

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