30 September 2019 by Will Date

Biffa considers appeal over China export verdict

Biffa Waste Services is looking to appeal a guilty verdict in a case relating to the export of mixed paper to China in 2015.

The company was ordered to pay fines of £350,000 and costs totalling £240,000 at a sentencing hearing at Wood Green Crown Court on Friday (27 September) – having been found guilty of breaching waste shipment regulations following a two-week trial in June (see letsrecycle.com story).

An image released by the Environment Agency of some of the material inspected through its investigation

The Environment Agency’s prosecution centred on seven containers of material marked as ‘mixed paper’ which were being exported to two paper mills in China, which had been sorted at Biffa’s Edmonton MRF in north London.

The Agency alleged that the material within the containers had levels of contamination which brought them into contravention of the 2007 Transfrontier Shipment Regulations.

Defence

Following the verdict in June, Biffa issued a robust defence of its actions, and said that the case highlighted the need for guidance on acceptable levels of purity for exported mixed paper. It accused the Environment Agency of being “in breach of its responsibilities to the market” for failing to provide sufficient standards (see letsrecycle.com story).

In the wake of last week’s sentencing, a spokesperson for Biffa confirmed that the company has begun the appeal process in relation to the case.

The spokesperson said: “We strongly contested this case and have made an application for leave to appeal the verdict of June 20, 2019.”

“We strongly contested this case and have made an application for leave to appeal the verdict of June 20, 2019.”


Spokesperson
Biffa

Biffa’s statement added that, due to a lack of processing capacity at home, the UK and Europe is reliant on the export market for recycled paper and cardboard.

The company’s statement added: “This case related to contamination levels in seven containers of mixed paper that were due for export to China over four years ago. At that time China was a core market for UK exported materials for recycled paper and cardboard, and Biffa was a key supplier to some of the largest, best-invested cardboard mills in China.

“These mills were all accredited by the EA as being of an equal or higher environmental standard as mills within the UK and Europe and all our materials were regularly inspected by customs in China and by a Chinese Inspectorate regime based in the UK prior to shipping. In addition, all buyers conducted pre-checks before shipping to confirm that the materials were 98.5% pure paper, which was the accepted industry standard.

“Today our core markets for mixed recycled paper are the UK and Europe. We hope to see the EA work together with the industry to develop clearer guidance as to what are the acceptable levels of purity for UK exported mixed paper. We are encouraged by the support we have received from across the industry for our position on this matter.”

Enforcement

Illegal waste exports are now a priority are for enforcement work, the Environment Agency’s head of waste, Malcolm Lythgo, said in response to Friday’s ruling, in welcoming the court’s decision.

He said: “We are pleased with the court’s decision. We want all producers and exporters of waste to be responsible and make sure they only export material that can be legally and safely exported for recycling overseas.

“We want all producers and exporters of waste to be responsible and make sure they only export material that can be legally and safely exported for recycling overseas.”

Malcolm Lythgo, Environment Agency

“Illegal waste export blights the lives and environment of those overseas. We continue to treat illegal waste exports as a priority and will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those found to break the rules.

“Between 2018 and 2019, we prevented the illegal export of 12,690 tonnes of unsuitable waste and are working with the government on a number of measures to tighten controls including increasing monitoring of international waste shipments and charging higher fees to improve compliance.”

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