One of the UK’s largest waste management companies has been convicted of breaking the law on overseas exports.
The Environment Agency prosecuted Biffa Waste Services Ltd for sending waste collected from households to China. The waste included items such as used nappies and food packaging, which the company claimed was waste paper.
The export of unsorted household recycling waste from the UK to China has been banned since 2006.
A jury at Wood Green Crown court found Biffa guilty of two breaches of the law in May and June 2015. Paper can legally be sent to the People’s Republic, but heavily contaminated other waste cannot.
Evidence gathered by investigators at Felixstowe port clearly identified the contents of seven 25-tonne containers bound for China as including glass, plastics, electrical items and metal.
When officers searched the cargo, they found items such as shoes, plastic bags, an umbrella, socks, hand towels, unused condoms, soiled nappies and sanitary products, laminate flooring, and electric cable.
Sarah Mills, an enforcement manager whose team investigated the breaches for the Environment Agency, said: “The regulations around shipment of waste were brought in to stop the West merely passing the problem to other countries. It was commonplace in the 1970s and 1980s for developed nations to send vast amounts of waste abroad.
“The waste contained offensive material likely to have been discarded by the receiving country, at great risk and cost to the environment and people.
“The guilty verdicts justify our decision to prosecute Biffa.”
Biffa, of Coronation Road, High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, pleaded not guilty at an earlier hearing to two counts of breaching regulation 23 of the Transfrontier Shipment of Waste Regulations 2007.
It is an offence under the regulations to breach article 36 of the European Waste Shipments Regulation 1013/2006, which bans the export of waste collected from households to China.
Judge Simon Auerbach deferred sentencing until 27 September. The court was told the Environment Agency and Biffa had agreed a figure of £9,912 to be paid for proceeds of crime.