Saica: ‘No financial gain behind illegal exports’

A recycling firm that sent contaminated waste paper to China had to fork out nearly £200,000 because of its “oversight” – and also faces a significant fine.

A fire at Saica's Partington mill was a factor in the decision to export material

Saica Natur insisted yesterday (19 October) at Airdrie Sheriff Court that a breach of international waste shipment regulations was down to negligence and not motivated by greed. It also emphasised that there had been no further cases and it wished to move forward, writes our court correspondent.

Last month at the Court the company admitted committing the offence. Investigators had found 1,200 tonnes of waste paper contaminated with soiled nappies and other household rubbish.

Fifty one containers bound for China were intercepted by officers from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency. They discovered food waste, clothing, electrical equipment and children’s toys mixed with paper that should have been converted to cardboard.

The waste had come from Saica’s depot in Croy, Lanarkshire.

The court heard that paper waste was usually sent from Croy to the company’s recycling facility in Manchester. However, a fire there in 2016 greatly reduced capacity and the Spanish-owned company arranged to export paper to China.

The offence arose because the consignment was so heavily contaminated it was classed as mixed waste.

China is not party to the Basel Convention, an international treaty designed to reduce the movement of hazardous and other waste between nations. That means exporting mixed waste to China is illegal.

Quality

Joe Stewart, prosecuting, stated: “SEPA officers visited the Croy depot in September 2016 and had concerns about the quality of paper waste.

“It was established that 48 containers were in transit to China, including 29 that had reached Belgium. Another three were at Grangemouth port.

“All of these containers were intercepted.

“Officers spent six months picking through bales of waste paper and found soiled nappies, food waste, electrical equipment, clothing and toys.

“While a small amount of contamination is to be expected, SEPA officers said the level here went far beyond what could be acceptable.”

Experience

For Saica, Claire Mitchell QC told the court today that Saica had “learned from the experience”.

At the time of the offence the Croy depot was dealing with three times the usual amount of waste and was “under pressure to increase the speed of sorting it”.

Culpability is at the lower end of the spectrum
– Claire Mitchell QC for Saica

Mrs Mitchell told the court: “There’s no suggestion of a flagrant disregard for the law. Culpability is at the lower end of the spectrum.

“This was negligence as opposed to something that was intentional. It was a one-off oversight and it was not financially motivated.”

The lawyer said Saica would have made a £25,000 profit from the sale of waste paper to its Chinese customer, but ended up paying almost £200,000 to have the consignment returned to Scotland and stored pending the SEPA investigation.

Since the incident changes have been made and there is “ongoing training” for staff.

The firm liaises closely with SEPA and there have been no further issues.

Mrs Mitchell added: “The company has expressed a genuine wish to deal with this matter, move forward and do better.”

Sheriff Fergus Thomson adjourned the case until next month when he is expected to impose a fine on the company.

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