Waste management and recycling firms have ‘a duty of care’ to act against illegal exports of waste, an Environment Agency official told a conference yesterday (July 9).

Speaking at the inaugural conference of the Resource Association in London, the Environment Agency’s National Waste Enforcement Campaigns manager Paul Keay urged companies to work with the regulator’s intelligence service to bring an end to illegal exports.

Mr Keay identified hazards to human health, as well as damages to the environment, business reputation and public perception of the waste industry as the main risks associated with illegal exports.

And, he asked waste and recycling firms who may have been approached by companies suspected of carrying out illegal exports to provide information which could help in the fight against waste crime.

He said: “If someone approaches you with something that sounds too good to be true tell us, it might help us to identify the problem early on.

“I would like to see that we can get convictions quicker. We will not necessarily move to shut the company down but the information you provide could be another piece in the jigsaw.”

Operation Mound

‘If someone approaches you with something that sounds too good to be true, tell us, it might help us to identify the problem early on.’

Paul Keay, Environment Agency

Mr Keay’s comments followed the successful completion of ‘Operation Mound’, the largest case of its kind undertaken by the Agency, which led to the conviction of four defendants in March for unlawfully shipping 89 40-foot containers of waste to Brazil between October 2008 and July 2009 (see letsrecycle story).

In his presentation he explained that the case involved material which had been labelled as ‘plastics for recycling’ and was found to be poorly-sorted household waste when Brazilian authorities, alerted by the smell, opened the containers to find items including used condoms, nappies and syringes.

The containers were then shipped back to the UK, where Environment Agency officers manually sifted through the waste and found it originated from 30 local authorities in the South East of England.

The defendants, who pleaded guilty in February shortly before the start of a three week trial at the Old Bailey, were fined £500 and received conditional discharges for the offences. Two other men and a company, pleaded guilty to the same offence in April 2012 (see letsrecycle story), and were also fined for their part in shipping the waste.

Defra

Meanwhile, Dr Colin Church, director for resource and waste at the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), said the government was working with competent authorities to improve the targeting of illegal exports.

He said: “Clearly exporting materials is a sensible market place. However, it is clearly something that is of concern, particularly when you consider the illegal side of things.”

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