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Exporter Heavily Fined for Breaching Cross-Border Waste Shipment Rules

Exporter Heavily Fined for Breaching Cross-Border Waste Shipment Rules

Britain is fully committed to worldwide environmental protection measures and waste exporters who break the law can expect severe punishment. In one case, a waste management company was hit hard in the pocket after contaminants were found in bales of what was said to be paper waste destined for China.

Prior to their export, sample bales taken from two of the company’s consignments were inspected at a UK port. Together with paper, the bales were found to contain various contaminants, including soiled nappies, plastic bags and food packaging. The company argued that the waste had been carefully sorted at its depot and that the level of contamination was less than 1.5 percent.

The company was, however, convicted of two offences under Regulation 23 of the Transfrontier Shipment of Waste Regulations 2007. Regulation 23 prohibits the export of proscribed waste to countries that are not bound by the recyclable waste regime operated by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The company was fined £350,000 and ordered to pay £240,000 in prosecution costs.

Dismissing the company’s challenge to the convictions, the Court of Appeal noted that very high standards are expected of exporters of waste to countries where OECD rules do not apply, China amongst them. The offence is one of strict liability and it was, therefore, no defence for the company to argue that it had taken all reasonably practicable precautions to avoid contamination.

The waste in the bails derived from the company’s collection of mixed household waste and the Court acknowledged that it was impossible to remove 100 percent of contaminants. However, the trial judge had correctly left to the common sense of the jurors the question of whether the bales contained paper waste, which could be lawfully exported, or household waste, which could not.

Neither the precise intended destination of the waste nor the standards applicable to waste recycling in China were relevant to the jury’s task. What mattered was the contents of the bales when they left the company’s depot. The company was entitled to adduce evidence that the waste could be recycled in an environmentally sound manner, but it was ultimately for the jurors to reach their own judgment as to the quantity, nature and quality of the contaminants.

The company’s argument that its defence was prejudiced by jurors being informed of its 14 previous convictions for environmental regulatory offences also failed to persuade the Court that its convictions were unsafe.

Our articles are provided for general interest and information only. They do not constitute legal advice. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the content accurately reflects the law in England as at the date of its transmission, no liability is accepted for any loss or damage arising from any act or omission resulting from any information contained herein.

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