25 June 2019 by Will Date

Biffa questions EA over export standards

Biffa Waste Services has issued a robust defence after having been found guilty of breaching waste export regulations, and says it is considering an appeal against the conviction.

And, the company has claimed that the case highlights the need for guidance on acceptable levels of purity for exported mixed paper, accusing the Environment Agency of being “in breach of its responsibilities to the market” for failing to provide sufficient standards. It reasoned that the jury had no “quantative guidance” as to how the material should be viewed.

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

Biffa was found guilty of attempting to export waste to China in 2015 following a three-week a trial that concluded at Wood Green Crown Court in London last week (20 June) (see letsrecycle.com story). A sentence has yet to be passed following the verdict.

Export

The case was brought to court by the Environment Agency, which said the material in question had been designated for export between May and June 2015 as mixed paper for recycling.

Material was sorted at Biffa’s MRF at Edmonton, before being loaded into containers for shipment to mills in China via the port at Felixstowe, where inspection of the loads was carried out by Environment Agency officers.

Seven containers were found to be in breach of export regulations due to levels of contamination and stopped from being exported. Contaminants found in some containers included nappies, laminate flooring, coat hangers and pet food containers, the Agency said.

Biffa pleaded not guilty to the two counts of breaching regulation 23 of the Transfrontier Shipment of Waste Regulations 2007, but was found guilty on both charges.

Response

In a strong response to the verdict issued today, the company has said it is ‘very disappointed’ with the outcome of the case and that it is ‘considering its position and grounds for appeal’.

Alongside this, the company has been critical of the Environment Agency for failing to provide guidance on material quality standards expected of exporters – despite having ‘accused Biffa of failing to meet these standards during the trial,’ it said.

“The EA has been continually asked to specify a required level of purity by both the industry, and in one instance the Court of Appeal, and the failure to do so is a breach of its responsibilities to the market.”


Biffa
Statement

“At the time of the case we supplied a vital raw material to China to be recycled in an environmentally sound manner as an alternative to forestry. The materials we supplied commanded market-leading prices and met both international industry and customer standards,” the company stated.

On standards, it added: “The EA has been continually asked to specify a required level of purity by both the industry, and in one instance the Court of Appeal, and the failure to do so is a breach of its responsibilities to the market.”

Biffa reasoned that the jury had no official measure by which to judge the contamination. “In this instance the jury was asked to make a judgement as to whether they considered the level of contamination was minimal, without any quantitative guidance. In the absence of any EA guidelines our products always met the standards set by our customers and provided a route to recycling in an environmentally sound manner.”

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