Scottish recycling firm given record £345k confiscation order

A recycling firm has been handed a confiscation order of nearly £350,000 for licence breaches which resulted in the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) receiving numerous complaints from local residents in 2013.

Alloa-based Oran Environmental Solutions (OES) Ltd was yesterday (15 February) made to pay £345,558.43, the largest confiscation order under the Proceed of Crime Act (POCA) to date for environmental offences in Scotland. It was imposed in addition to fines amounting to £12,000 for waste related offences.

The charges relate to the company’s failure to remove waste materials from its Kilbagie Mill site following enforcement action by SEPA, storing controlled waste on land not covered by a waste management licence and failing to carry out adequate pest control measures at the facility.

During the course of inspections in 2013, SEPA officers identified that OES Ltd were using an unlicensed area of their site to store additional waste. The main site was at capacity and, as a result, stockpiles had begun to be kept outside of the boundaries of the licensed site.

In an effort to ensure compliance at Kilbagie Mill, two enforcement notices were served in May 2013. These required OES Ltd to cease accepting waste and also remove the backlog of stockpiled waste. As the notices were not complied with, SEPA partially suspended the site’s waste management licence to prohibit the acceptance of more waste. Further enforcement action was also taken to ensure that waste on unlicensed areas of the site was removed.

The backlog of waste resulted in SEPA receiving numerous complaints from local residents during 2013 regarding pest control at the facility, including the increased presence of vermin, flies and birds. Many of the complaints noted that the residents felt the facility had unfairly impacted on the local community.

The case was referred to the Procurator Fiscal for consideration by SEPA due to the potential impact on the local environment together with OES Ltd’s failure to comply.

‘Clear and unequivocal’ message on environmental crime

Calum MacDonald, SEPA’s Executive Director, said: “This sends out a clear and unequivocal message that environmental crime will not be tolerated and that SEPA will, with its partners, pursue those who seek to profit from waste crime.

“Compliance with the waste industry in non-negotiable and we will continue to take effective and proportionate action as required to tackle non-compliant waste operators. The confiscation order reflects the costs avoided by the company in taking these illegal activities and is the result of close collaborative working arrangements between SEPA and the Crown Office.”

SEPA cracking down on environmental crime

Last month SEPA announced that it had handed out a record total of £284,000 in fines in 2014/15, the majority of which fell under its waste regime. MacDonald, who last year was elected as Chairperson of an advisory board to Interpol’s Environmental Compliance and Enforcements Committee , says that the increasing fines are a sign of environmental crime being SEPA’s top priority.

He said: “[Environmental crime] puts our environment and communities at risk, and undermines legitimate businesses. New enforcement powers, enhanced intelligence gathering, and working in partnership with other enforcement agencies are all helping us make significant progress.”

In England, a corporate scorecard for the second quarter of the 2015/16 financial year showed that the regulator was significantly missing targets to clamp down on high-risk illegal operations. From a baseline of 272 in 2013/14, the EA had set a target of reducing the number of high-risk illegal waste sites in England by 24 per cent to 206 sites by the fourth quarter of this year. However, the number has actually risen to 323, an increase of 19 per cent.

The Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM) is also aiming to help reduce the occurrence of waste infractions through its ‘Fighting waste crime’ campaign, which will run throughout 2016.

The campaign is aimed to help businesses ensure that they are complying with waste regulations and avoiding illegal operators and will focus on training and qualifications such as duty of care and technical competence.

More about how the EA tackles waste crime can be found in Resource’s feature article.