Biffa, Waverley’s waste contractor fined £1.5m for exporting household waste, and not for the first time!
One of the last major decisions made by the Conservative Administration before it was kicked into opposition in the 2019 elections was to change suppliers of the borough’s waste collection system.
Went Veolia, which has its own recycling centre, and a waste collection depot on the A31 between Alton & Winchester.
Came Biffa – which will be transporting general waste to the Slyfield Depot on the Woking Road in Guildford and recycling to Camberley in the Surrey Heath district. Food Waste will be collected separately.
The new service was expected to save ‘Your Waverley,’ £50,000 per year. Has it, we wonder?
Biffa has been fined £1.5m after exporting filthy rubbish marked as waste paper for recycling in India and Indonesia, in actions a judge called…
“reckless, bordering on deliberate”.
The company was convicted last week after a two week trial at Woodford Green Crown Court of sending more than 1,000 tonnes of household waste to India and Indonesia, in breach of a ban on sending such waste to developing countries.
Approximately 50,000 tins, 40,000 plastic bags, 25,000 items of clothing, 3,000 nappies – and even a frying pan, condoms and a souvenir New York T-shirt were among the items packaged as waste paper for export to Asia in Biffa’s recycling facility in Edmonton, north London, between 2018 and 2019.
The seven-figure fine is the second time in two years the company has been fined for exporting household waste to a non-OECD country.
But then £1.5m will put hardly dent in a company with a one billion pound turnover, will it?
Investigators who discovered the rogue waste recorded “a strong putrid” smell and an “acidic aroma” after they held sixteen 25-tonne containers at Southampton, but 26 more had already left the port.
Biffa said the prosecution brought by the Environment Agency had not been in the public interest. However, after Friday’s sentence, it removed that statement from its website. Instead, Biffa said: “We take our responsibility for environmental stewardship very seriously and we accept the court’s judgment. We no longer export waste paper outside the OECD and will carefully review our processes to ensure they fully meet the implications of this judgment.”
Judge Shane Collery QC told Wood Green crown court Biffa had shown no contrition. He found the company’s previous comments about being picked on by the Environment Agency and no public interest served in being prosecuted a second time as “aggravating and unattractive”.
The Environment Agency brought the prosecution against Biffa after uncovering rolling contracts to send vast amounts of waste to India and Indonesia.
Malcolm Lythgo, the head of waste regulation at the Environment Agency, said: “Biffa shipped banned materials to developing countries without having systems in place to prevent the offences. The Environment Agency will pursue those who blight the lives of overseas communities through illegal exports. This guilty verdict underlines that anyone producing or handling waste must only export material legally and safely for recycling.
“The Environment Agency stopped the illegal export of almost 23,000 tonnes of unsuitable waste in 2019-20. We have stepped up increased monitoring of international waste shipments.”
During the most recent trial, jurors were told of Biffa’s rolling monthly contracts worth a combined £39,500 to move the household waste to India or Indonesia.
The company was convicted of four breaches of regulation 23 of the Transfrontier Shipment of Waste Regulations 2007 between October 2018 and April 2019. In addition to the £1.5m fine, Biffa was ordered to pay costs of £153,827.99 and proceeds of crime order of £38,388.
In September 2019, Biffa was fined £350,000, with costs of £240,000 and proceeds of crime order of £9,912, for sending household waste, described as waste paper, to China between May and June 2015.
Britain is a signatory to international agreements to ensure that household and hazardous waste produced here is not exported to developing nations.
Sailesh Mehta, prosecuting for the Environment Agency, told the jury: “We have a moral and legal obligation not to pass on our pollution problems to other countries such as India and Indonesia.”
The Biffa group has a turnover of more than £1bn, and about 100,000 tonnes of waste is exported from its Edmonton site.