Illegally exporting plastics costs waste company £20,000

A five-month surveillance operation by the Environment Agency has led to a company being fined £20,000 for illegally exporting waste plastics to India.

Materials Recovery Limited, a subsidiary of Ireland's NTR, started exporting waste illegally from its site in Norton Fitzwarren near Taunton in June 2003. It had just bought the site from Polyline Reprocessors, a plastics recycler.

That month, an Environment Agency officer on a routine inspection of the site was told that the company was exporting waste to India.

Over the next five months, Agency officers carried out covert surveillance of the site. This culminated in a container of waste plastics being intercepted at Southampton Docks on 3 November.

Subsequent investigations revealed that the company had exported 20 such containers to India during the five-month period.

Under the EU's transfrontier shipment of waste Regulation, waste plastics count as "green list" wastes and can be exported without restrictions.

India, however, has said it will only accept PET under such controls. All other waste plastics must be exported under "red list" controls - a state of affairs that is extremely prohibitive.

"India is exceptional in specifying such controls," said Debbie Ely, regulatory waste officer at the Agency, "but the company should have known about the legislation. It isn't complex and it would have been easy for them to get hold of."

Appearing before Taunton magistrates on 12 May, the company pleaded guilty to 12 offences under the transfrontier shipment of waste regulations, and asked for a further 10 to be taken into consideration. It was fined £20,000 and ordered to pay £5,800 costs.

In April, the illegal export of household waste made the national press when 54 containers of mixed refuse, wrongly labelled as "waste paper", were intercepted by Dutch authorities and returned to England (ENDS Report 363, pp 16-17 ).