Importer fined £40,000 for packaging failures

Wine importer Berkmann has become the second company this year to profit from failing to comply with packaging waste regulations despite receiving a hefty fine.

Berkmann Wine Cellars has been ordered to pay more than £48,000 for not complying with packaging waste regulations, however, the Environment Agency estimates the firm saved over £72,500 by avoiding its obligations.

The company based in Highbury, north London, handled an estimated 16,500 tonnes of packaging between 2000 and 2005. Had it registered with a compliance scheme it would have been expected to recover and recycle some 2,819 tonnes of that waste at a cost of £72,653.

Appearing before Highbury Corner magistrates on 20 July, Berkmann pleaded guilty to failing to register with the Environment Agency and for failing to meets its packaging recovery and recycling obligations under the Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging Waste) Regulations 1997 between 1999 and 2005.

The firm said it had now hired a consultant to advise on their statutory duties.

It was fined £40,000 and was ordered to pay £2,121 in costs to the Agency along with £6,086 in compensation for lost registration fees.

Perversely, the level of fines means the firm saved nearly £25,000 by shirking its responsibilities.

It is the second case of its kind this year. In January, CRM Trading Ltd was fined nearly £6,000 less than the estimated cost of complying with packaging rules (ENDS Report 385, p 57 ).

Swindon-based Scotts of Stow, a company selling consumer products through catalogues, was also prosecuted in July under the regulations. Pleading guilty to five offences, the firm was fined £13,171 by magistrates and ordered to pay £1,970 in costs and £7,586 in compensation for missed registration fees.

In total, 22 firms have been prosecuted this year for packaging waste offences in England and Wales, with companies attracting fines of £12,800 on average. There have been no prosecutions in Scotland.