Recycling business ordered to pay £50k for breaching WEEE regulations
A former Northumberland-based recycling business and its director have been ordered to pay £54,365 in compensation and fines after being found guilty of breaching waste regulations.
Following an investigation by the Environment Agency (EA), Northern Compliance Ltd and Director Vincent Francis Eckerman pleaded guilty for their failure to finance the cost of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) collection, treatment, recovery and disposal.
Northern Compliance was an EA-approved WEEE compliance scheme, which had been established to assist businesses in meeting their producer obligations under the WEEE regulations.
After under-collecting WEEE and missing its collection targets in 2017, Northern Compliance was asked to pay a minimum of £1.1 million into the WEEE Compliance Fee Fund by the EA by 31 March 2018.
Northern Compliance was unable to meet this cost and and was ordered to pay £50,900 in compensation to the WEEE Compliance Fee Fund, which Mr Eckerman claimed the company had offered the EA previously but had been rejected. Mr Eckerman, aged 59 of Castlefield, Prudhoe, told South Tyneside Magistrates Court that the company had missed its WEEE collection targets due to a ‘perfect storm’ of problems with suppliers.
A second charge ordered Mr Eckerman to pay a £2,295 fine with a £170 victim surcharge and £1,000 court costs. Northern Compliance ceased trading in December 2018.
District Judge Begley commented: “I found his evidence verbose and lacking in clarity. He simply has not done what I would expect of a man with his experience and he had been reckless and significantly undermined the regulatory regime.”
Commenting on the charges, David O’Toole, Regulated Industry Programme Manager for the EA, said: “Rules and regulations are in place for people and organisations to abide by and when those legalities are broken we aim to bring the perpetrators to justice.
“In this case, Northern Compliance Ltd have paid the ultimate price as the company is no longer trading having had its authorisation revoked and Mr Eckerman now has a criminal conviction.
“We respect the sentencing restrictions with which the Judge had to work to in this case. This prosecution shows that where a Producer Compliance Scheme fails to meet their financing obligations under the WEEE Regulations, the Environment Agency will not hesitate to take robust enforcement action against Compliance Schemes and individuals, to prevent the WEEE Regulatory regime being undermined.
“Hopefully this will make other companies in a similar position of responsibility think twice about breaking the law and pay their compliance fees.”
Non-compliance with environmental regulations places significant pressure on the waste and resources industry – an EA report, published in October 2018, revealed that a record number of fines had been handed out for waste crime in 2017/18.
In July 2016, the longest custodial sentence for an environmental crime was handed to a waste criminal, Terrence Soloman Dugbo, for defrauding WEEE recycling schemes out of millions of pounds.
After failing to make any payments towards the court orders, an additional nine years and four months were added to Dugbo’s sentence, meaning that he will now be serving a total of 16 years.