In September, the Lincolnshire-based food waste recycling company pleaded guilty to eight offences, the Agency says, relating to the spreading of waste on farmland.
Doncaster Magistrates’ Court heard that Whites Recycling spread liquid waste on fields at Auckley, near Doncaster, between March and May 2018 and at nearby Blaxton between November and December 2018.
The company also spread liquid waste near Susworth, Lincolnshire, in November and December 2019, the Agency says.
In addition, the Agency says Whites Recycling pleaded guilty to illegally storing liquid waste in a storage tank on Acomb Farm at Blaxton between July 2017 and April 2018.
Although the company had a permit that allowed it to spread food waste to land for agricultural benefit, before Whites Recycling could start to store or spread waste it had to notify the Agency using a deployment form. The environmental regulator also had to agree to the spreading.
The Agency says the liquid wastes contained nitrogen and phosphates and were spread on the land “at the wrong time of year or in excessive quantities”, posing a risk of pollution to groundwater.
In passing sentence, District Judge Young stated that Whites Recycling had been “negligent” in failing to take “reasonable care” to put in place and enforce proper systems for avoiding the offences, the Environment Agency says.
The court is said to have acknowledged that the company had reviewed its systems and steps had been taken to avoid further offending.
And, the court stated that it had to balance the need to “bring home” to Whites Recycling’s management and shareholders the need to improve regulatory compliance with the fact that the company had recently been operating at a loss.
The court fined the company £36,000 and ordered it to pay a statutory surcharge of £170 and the Agency’s investigation and legal costs of £38,008.
Letsrecycle.com contacted Whites Recycling for comment.
After the sentencing, the Agency’s area environment manager, Steve Lawrie, said: “Our rules are in place for a good reason and to ensure that any material that is spread is done correctly and managed in a way that protects the environment.
Our rules are in place for a good reason
- Steve Lawrie, area environment manager
“We will not hesitate to take enforcement action in future for those who breach their permits and refuse to cooperate.
“We hope this case sends a message to other land spreading operators and farmers that we take land spreading offences very seriously.
“Operators must follow the correct procedures to ensure they spread safely, in accordance with their environmental permits.”
Spreading waste to land is an alternative source to and reduces reliance on traditional manufactured fertilisers.
The Environment Agency says Whites Recycling is a company involved in the disposal and recycling of waste sludge and liquid waste, most of which is generated by the food industry.
The company can lawfully spread such waste to farmland in circumstances where it can be demonstrated that land spreading will result in “agricultural or ecological benefit” and it notifies the Agency beforehand, the environmental regulator says.
If waste is spread without a deployment first having been agreed or “in circumstances which are not in accordance with the agreed deployment” then the Agency says there is a risk of environmental harm.
Earlier this year, Whites Recycling paid £100,000 to the Tees Rivers Charitable Trust for a permit breach relating to the spreading of waste on agricultural land across County Durham and Teesside between March 2016 and July 2017 (see letsrecycle.com story).