Dirty nappies and video tape in ‘waste paper’ bound for China
One of Britain’s biggest waste management companies, Biffa Waste Services Ltd, has been convicted of breaking the law thanks to overseas exports of ‘unsorted’ paper waste bound for China containing used nappies and food packaging. And it’s a real industrial pollution scandal.
A three-week trial found the company guilty of two breaches of the law dating back to May and June 2015. While it’s OK to send paper for recycling to China, heavily contaminated waste is not OK at all. Biffa claimed loads of waste leaving its Edmonton depot was legal because it was made up of waste paper, but the evidence clearly showed the contents of seven 25-tonne containers bound for China were full of glass, plastics, electrical goods and metals. Plus: women’s underwear, plastic bottles, metal pipework, a 12-inch single by the 1990s band Deee-Lite, shoes, plastic bags, umbrellas, socks, unused condoms, pottery, coat hangers, latex gloves, wet-wipes, laminated flooring, dirty nappies and used sanitary towels. By all accounts, the stench was absolutely appalling.
Biffa apparently used two intermediaries to handle the deal, the first of whom arranged a shipment of 5,863 tonnes of mixed waste paper. A second broker arranged to ship 4,992 tonnes of mixed paper. But the Environment Agency stopped all seven containers from leaving Britain. While the containers were marked as waste paper, they actually contained ‘a totally unacceptable level of contamination with other waste’.
The regulations that control the shipment of waste are intended to stop Western nations simply passing the buck, sending their rubbish elsewhere on an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ basis. During the 1970s and ’80s, developed countries sent vast amounts of waste overseas, and goodness knows what ultimately happened to it all.
The guilty verdict hammers home yet again that it’s a serious offence to breach article 36 of the European Waste Shipments Regulation 1013/2006, which bans the export of waste collected from households to China. Sentencing will take place on 27th September 2019.
Environmental permitting – Newark man fined over controlled waste without a licence
You don’t need to be a big business to get in trouble over environmental permitting. Jake Thomas Mayfield from Newark has just been told to pay a £4,219.53 fine after being found guilty of transporting controlled waste without a licence. A licence would have cost him just £154.
Anyone who transports waste as part of their business, whether it’s their own or someone else’s, must have a waste carrier licence. The offence was discovered thanks to Operation Transporter, a multi-agency operation that targeted road crime in cahoots with Nottinghamshire Police, HMRC, and the DVSA. The man said he was moving the scrap for a friend and wasn’t running a waste business, but police found two invoices from two different scrap metal merchants, revealing more waste had been transported and sold on the same day. It also turned out that Mayfield had been convicted previously for fly tipping.
Environmental pollution – Landowner and waste haulage director fined for illegal soil deposit
You can legally restore land to agricultural use. But not when it means importing almost 24,000 tons of waste soil when you’re only authorised to import 1000 tons of the stuff. That’s what happened in Devon, when a landowner imported 23,500 tonnes of soil in collaboration with the director of a waste haulage company. Together they’ve been fined £6,435 for dumping the waste on farmland near Tiverton.
In 2016 CB Plant Hire agreed to let a third party use land off the A361 owned by farmer Stephen Dibble for waste disposal. After complaints were received, an Environment Agency officer visited the site and found waste being deposited on a massive scale, with an entire valley already partially filled. As it turned out, Dibble was using the waste brought in by CB Plant Hire to return the land to agricultural use.
A Waste Exemption lets landowners re-use as much as 1,000 tonnes of soil and subsoil for specific purposes. But Dibble had taken more than 23,500 tonnes of waste without planning permission, and the illegal deposit also totally changed the appearance of the landscape.
The reason behind the law-breaking was financial troubles, and Mr Dibble claimed he didn’t think he’d done anything wrong since he was acting on advice from third parties. CB Plant Hire admitted they’d taken their eye off the ball. At the end of the day the incident was seen as a sustained abuse of an exemption for financial gain.
The Drinking Water Inspectorate – Keeping water companies on their toes
Are you interested in water pollution prevention? Have you heard of the DWI, The Drinking Water Inspectorate?
The Drinking Water Inspectorate came to life in 1990, created to ‘provide independent reassurance that public water supplies in England and Wales are safe and drinking water quality is acceptable to consumers.’ They provide a Prosecution and Caution Record online that details the fines handed to water companies for offences around our drinking water. It’s interesting to note that so far this year two water companies have been fined for drinking water offences, namely Thames Water and Northumbrian Water. Keep an eye on who’s doing the decent thing and who isn’t here.
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David Cole MSEE
David is a pioneer of the spill containment and water pollution prevention industry with 30 years experience. He was instrumental in the development of CIRIA736 with The Environment Agency and is passionate about preventing water pollution.