Refurbisher with ISO14001 fined for illegal fridge storage

The storage of old fridges at unlicensed premises has cost a fridge refurbisher and its director more than £13,000. The breach occurred despite the company’s certification to the ISO14001 environmental management standard.

Birkenhead-based Global Environmental Recycling collects and repairs fridges and other household appliances for sale in the UK and abroad. Appliances beyond repair are stripped of spare parts and sent for disposal.

In July 2003, Environment Agency officers investigated a report that fridges were being stored at an industrial estate in Birkenhead that did not have a waste management licence. The site was leased by RJS International, Global’s trading arm.

At the back of the site, officers discovered several thousand fridges and freezers stacked six feet high. An enforcement notice was served on Global’s director, Robert Shepherd, requiring the removal of the fridges within 90 days.

Mr Shepherd told the Agency that the unit had been leased to store reusable appliances. These may not have counted as "waste" if checks had been conducted to demonstrate that they were usable without repair. But he admitted that appliances stored at the site were "waste", and that RJS was responsible for transporting and depositing them.

Mr Shepherd was also aware of the need for a licence; he operated from two other licensed units on the estate. The fridges were moved to the new site before it was granted a licence because the others were full.

In October, the officers returned to the unit and discovered that many of the fridges were still there, in contravention of the notice. Some were still there in December, but the site had been cleared prior to eventually receiving a licence in May 2004.

Appearing before Wirral magistrates on 10 December, Global admitted two charges of permitting waste to be deposited at an unlicensed site, contrary to section 33(1)(a) and 33(6) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, and was fined £1,000 on each charge. It was also ordered to pay £2,500 costs.

Mr Shepherd was fined £1,000 for a similar offence. He was also fined £1,000 for keeping waste at an unlicensed site, and £2,000 for failing to comply with the enforcement notice, contrary to section 59(5) of the 1990 Act. He was ordered to pay £5,000 costs.

Global’s website boasts that the company gained certification to the international environmental management standard ISO14001 in 2002, and that the company offers a "comprehensive disposal service to many retail companies and councils." These organisations, it says, "are all safe in the knowledge that we continue to deal with refrigeration disposal in the most environmentally friendly method."

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