Brazil exporters pay £106,250 for waste crime
Four men and a company have been ordered to pay a total of £106,250 in fines and costs for exporting over 1,500 tonnes of ‘poorly-sorted household waste’ to Brazil in 2008 and 2009, marking the end of the ‘biggest’ Environment Agency (EA) waste crime investigation and prosecution to date.
The defendants, Julio da Costa (51), his son Juliano da Costa (27), Jonathan Coombe (41), Simon Edwards (46) and company, Edwards Waste Paper Ltd, were all fined for their part in exporting 89 40-foot containers of prohibited waste to Santos and Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil.
Although the waste was marked as ‘plastics for recycling’, it was found to actually contain ‘contaminated’ waste such as syringes, nappies and catheter bags and thus breached the Transfrontier Shipment of Waste Regulations 2007.
The discovery of the shipments led to then President of Brazil, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, making a formal complaint to the Basel Convention, the body that overseas the international shipment of waste and recyclables.
The discovery prompted the Environment Agency’s National Environmental Crime Team (NECT) to launch an three-month investigation which saw EA officers retain around 1,400 contaminated items. So much waste was recovered from the shipments that during the trial the prosecution ‘exhibits’ filled an entire container.
According to the EA, ‘the inspection team had to wear specialist breathing apparatus to shield their noses and throats from the nauseating stench of the decomposing waste and protective suits and gloves to avoid contact with blood-stained items and needles’.
The waste reportedly originated from over 30 local authority areas across the South East of England.
Julio and Juliano da Costa had originally pleaded not guilty at the pre-trial hearings in April 2012. However, after it emerged that 42 of the 89 containers could be traced back to the two defendants through their now-dissolved Worldwide Biorecyclables Ltd company, they changed their pleas to guilty.
Coombe and Edwards had originally pleaded guilty to exporting the remaining 47 containers.
Julio da Costa and Juliano da Costa were ordered to pay a £500 fine each, with Julio being sentenced to a 2-year conditional discharge and Juliano, an 18-month conditional discharge.
Coombe was ordered to pay a £250 fine and was sentenced to a 2-year conditional discharge and Edwards was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £10,000 of costs.
Further, Edwards Waste Paper Ltd will have to pay a £45,000 fine and £40,000 in costs.
However, despite the total costs totalling £106,250, the fine is actually less than the cost of sending the waste to landfill - which would come in at around £135,000.
‘Blatant disregard’ for communities and environment
Speaking of the sentences, Andrew Higham, Head of NECT, said: "Exporting poorly-sorted, contaminated waste is not only against the law - it's immoral. It’s a crime that shows a blatant disregard for the safety and welfare of overseas communities and the environment.
“We were determined to bring those who were behind the export to justice. To do that my officers had to spend over three months hand-picking through hundreds of tonnes of rotting waste to gather evidence and establish where it had all come from. Underpinning the crime was a complex web of contracts and connections and over 170 witness statements were gathered in the course of our inquiries.
“[The result is testimony to the patience and professionalism of the Environment Agency.”
A fifth man wanted in connection to the case, Andre De Oliveira (32), failed to answer bail in November 2011 and his whereabouts are currently unknown. He was Director of Worldwide Biorecyclables Ltd at the time of the shipments and is yet to be formally charged.