‘Blunder’ leads to £11,200 fine for exporting ‘banned waste’

The Environment Agency has announced it has “successfully prosecuted” a former company director for a “blunder” which led to the illegal export of banned waste to Indonesia in 2019.

Some of the waste the Agency says Mr Wang exported, including nappies, sanitary items, electrical items and tins (picture: Environment Agency)

The Agency said that Tianyong Wang, 43, of Welcombe Grove, Solihull, Warwickshire, was fined £1,200 and ordered to pay costs of £10,000 at Kidderminster Magistrates Court on 10 August.

Howard McCann, prosecuting for the Agency, told the court that Mr Wang had caused his dissolved company, Droitwich-based Berry Polymer Ltd (company number 11887373), to export 382 tonnes of household waste in 22 sea containers to Indonesia via the ports of Felixstowe and Southampton between 27 June and 5 July 2019.

Shipping documents described the waste as plastic, the Agency says. Instead, the containers held “banned waste” including nappies, clothing, textiles, tins and electrical items.

Ultimately, the Agency said it prevented the waste from leaving the UK.

Sham Singh, senior investigating officer for the Agency, said: “This prosecution sends out a strong message that we will investigate and where necessary prosecute anyone found to be involved in illegally exporting waste.”

Mr Wang had pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing in April to causing his company to export the waste to Indonesia, the Agency says.

‘Plastic bottles’

Mr Wang had agreed to sell around 500 tonnes of plastic bottles to a broker at £270 per tonne, the Environment Agency says. It states that Berry Polymer invoiced the broker £103,210 for 382 tonnes of “plastic bottles.”

One of the 22 containers Mr Wang was to export to Indonesia (picture: Environment Agency)

Agency officers discovered all was not as it seemed on 4 July 2019 during an initial inspection of 17 of the containers at the port of Southampton and five at Felixstowe.

These inspections recorded “significant” evidence of contamination, flies and, in some containers, a “rotting decomposing smell”, the Agency says. The officers deemed the containers unfit for export and so prevented them from onward shipment to Indonesia.

The Agency then transported five of the containers to its inspection facility at Felixstowe for a full examination, where it says one of the bales examined was “so bad” that an officer was physically sick.

All the containers were returned to Berry Polymer’s site in Droitwich for reprocessing.

The Agency says that when interviewed, Mr Wang, who was abroad at the time, said the material supplied was not as described because his company’s usual bale inspection had either not happened or was “sub-standard”.

In sentencing, District Judge Strongman said this was a “blunder” which “cost him his business and his reputation”.

‘Banned waste’

The Environment Agency says the waste included about 1,590 nappies or sanitary items, 1,338 electrical items and about 33,639 cans.

Other contaminants included “numerous” items of clothing, textiles and rags, unopened plastic bags, glass, wood, golf balls, toys, a used toilet brush and contaminated food and drink cartons.

The export of waste collected from households to non-OECD countries is prohibited by Article 36 of the Waste Shipment Regulations.

A shipment of waste starts at the point of loading in the country of dispatch and continues until the waste has been recovered at the facility in the country of destination. Therefore, the export was not seen as an “attempt”, despite the containers never leaving Felixstowe and Southampton.

The Agency says waste must be collected separately or “properly sorted” to be categorised as ‘green list’ material such as plastic waste.

The Agency describes proper sorting as being “sufficient to remove contaminants to the point where any contamination that remains is so small as to be minimal”.

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