Waste exports prosecution

Director fined following a waste exports prosecution investigation by the Environment Agency.  The EA successfully prosecuted a former company director for illegally exporting banned household waste including nappies, clothing, textiles, tins and electrical items from a site in Droitwich, Worcestershire, to Indonesia in 2019.

At Kidderminster Magistrates Court on Wednesday 10 August 2022, Tianyong Wang, 43, of Solihull, Warwickshire, was fined £1,200 and ordered to pay costs of £10,000.

He had pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing in April 2022 to causing his dissolved company, Berry Polymer Limited, to export the waste to Indonesia. Shipping documents described the waste as plastic, which can be exported to Indonesia for recycling.

Howard McCann, prosecuting for the Environment Agency, told the court that between 27 June and 5 July 2019, Wang had caused his company to export some 382 tonnes of household waste in 22 sea containers from its site in Droitwich via the ports of Felixstowe and Southampton to Indonesia.

Included in the waste were about 1,590 nappies or sanitary items, plus 1,338 electrical items and about 33,639 tins/cans.

waste exports prosecution
One of the 22 containers of waste investigated (courtesy of the Environment Agency)

Other contaminants included numerous items of clothing, textiles and rags, unopened plastic bags, glass, wood, golf balls, toys, a used toilet brush and contaminated food and drink cartons.

Mr McCann told the court that the defendant was the sole director of Berry Polymer Limited, a company which was dissolved on 24 August 2021, at the time of the offending.

Wang had agreed to sell some 500 tonnes of plastic bottle waste to a broker at £270 per tonne. A purchase order confirmed the load site of the waste as “Berry Polymer Limited, 20 The Furlong Droitwich WR9 9AH.” Berry Polymer invoiced the broker £103,210.20 for 382.26 tonnes of “plastic bottles.”

The offence was discovered by Environment Agency officers who conducted initial inspections of some of the 22 containers at the ports of Southampton (17 containers) and Felixstowe (5) on 4 July 2019.

These inspections recorded significant evidence of contamination, flies and, in some containers, a rotting decomposing smell.  The containers were deemed unfit for export at that stage and prevented from onward shipment to Indonesia.

Five of the containers were transported to the Environment Agency’s inspection facility at Felixstowe for full examination, one of the bales examined was so bad that an officer was physically sick.  Ultimately all the containers were returned to the site in Droitwich for reprocessing.

When interviewed, Wang, who was abroad at the time, said the material supplied was not as described because his company’s usual bale inspection had either not happened or was sub-standard.

In sentencing, District Judge Strongman said this was a “blunder” by Wang, which had cost him his business and his reputation.

This prosecution sends out a strong message that we will investigate and where necessary prosecute anyone found to be involved in illegally exporting waste.

Waste crime can have a serious environmental impact and puts communities at risk. It undermines legitimate business and the investment and economic growth that goes with it.

We support legitimate businesses and are proactively supporting them by disrupting and stopping the illegal waste exports.

Sham Singh, senior investigating officer for the Environment Agency

In this case the defendant was charged with offences under the Transfrontier Shipment of Waste Regulations 2007 (TFS).  The export of waste collected from households to non-OECD (Organisation for Economic and Development) countries is prohibited by Article 36 of the Waste Shipment Regulations.  The offence of transporting waste to a non-OECD country in breach of the prohibition is created by Regulation 23 and the directors’ offence by regulation 55(1) of the TFS Regulations 2007. The offence is one of strict liability – strict liability offences are crimes which require no proof of intent. Strict liability offences are primarily regulatory offences aimed at businesses in relation to environment, health and safety.

A shipment of waste starts at the point of loading in the country of dispatch and continues until the waste has been recovered at the facility in the country of destination. This is why the export is not regarded as an attempt, despite the containers being prevented from leaving Felixstowe and Southampton.

For waste to be categorised as green list such as plastic waste, it must have been collected separately or been properly sorted.

Properly sorted means that the sorting is sufficient to remove contaminants to the point where any contamination that remains is so small as to be minimal and does not prevent the waste from becoming green list waste. If you require environmental advice or support for your business, please contact one of the Ashbrooke team.

TCM attendance changes

The Environment Agency has published the results of a consultation on TCM attendance changes.  The Environment Agency consulted with stakeholders to hear their views on proposed options and changes to the attendance requirements for technically competent managers (TCMs).

The consultation explained:

  • how the current technical competence attendance requirements work
  • options for proposed changes to the methods of calculating TCM attendance and other proposed changes to the attendance requirements
  • proposed implementation timescales

The responses to the TCM attendance changes consultation will help shape a second, more detailed consultation.  This will provide further details for option 1: attendance linked to charge bands, and other rules associated with the attendance requirements for technically competent managers.  The EA aim to publish the next consultation in summer 2023.

The EA received a broad range of views which will help develop guidance on the attendance requirements for technically competent managers.  The EA received 75 responses to the consultation:

  • 32 from site operators and companies with permits
  • 18 from trade associations and other organisations and groups
  • 12 from consultants
  • 5 from local authorities
  • 8 from individuals and members of the public

Those responding generally agreed that new guidance was needed to explain the attendance requirements for TCMs and provided views on the 3 options preferred for calculating the attendance requirements:

  • option 1: attendance linked to charge bands – 36%
  • option 2: standard baseline attendance for all waste facilities – 16%
  • option 3: tailored baseline attendance for waste operations and waste installations – 30.67%
  • no preference – 14.67%
  • Two respondents (2.67%) did not provide an answer to this question.

Many of those responding highlighted the potential for environmental benefits should TCM attendance increase at poor performing sites. However, the extent of this benefit would depend on the specific circumstances. Approximately 75% of those responding supported the adjustment of the attendance requirement based on operator performance, with those in deteriorating or poor compliance bands requiring increased TCM attendance.

TCM attendance changes
Changes proposed to TCM attendance requirements at waste sites

Some of those responding stated that applying attendance requirements for the Environmental Services Association (ESA)/Energy & Utility (EU) Skills technical competence scheme would undermine the purpose of this scheme, but there was general support for other proposals on the 48 hour attendance cap, 24 hour operations, multiple regulated facilities and mothballed sites.

For permit transfers, some respondents highlighted situations where transfers were ‘administrative’ and in those instances they did not support previously agreed TCM attendance requirements reverting back to those required by the guidance.

For closed landfills nearly 40% of respondents agreed with the proposals, whilst 50% did not have a view. The Environment Agency concluded that it anticipate the majority of the 50% who did not have a view do not operate activities involving closed landfills.

Most of those who responded did not have a view on the proposals for mobile plant attendance requirements. Around one third supported the proposals on mobile plant and less than 10% disagreed.

Nearly half of respondents supported a 12 month implementation period for the new guidance. Because, for example, this would give operators time to understand the new guidance and train or recruit additional TCMs if required.

The Agency received a broad range of views which will help develop the attendance requirements for TCMs guidance and it intends to launch the next consultation in summer 2023. It will include further details of the favoured option and other proposed changes to the attendance requirements.

Operators who apply for an environmental permit for a waste operation must be members of (and comply with) a government approved technical competency scheme. Most existing waste environmental permit holders must also comply with a government approved technical competency scheme through the conditions in their permits.

For operators that show competence through the scheme run by the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management and Waste Management Industry Training and Advisory Board, the Environment Agency requires that sites have nominated technically competent manager(s) on site for a specified amount of time each week – this is called the attendance requirement.

The Environment Agency used to calculate attendance requirements using the OPRA risk appraisal guidance. However, except for the sections relating to attendance levels for technically competent managers, this guidance has been withdrawn.

The Agency is now considering changes to the requirements for attendance by TCMs at environmental permit sites. If you require environmental advice or support for your business, please contact one of the Ashbrooke team.