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Environment Agency commits to tackling illegal fridge recyclers

The Environment Agency (EA) has said that it will increase its efforts to eradicate illegal fridge recycling.

Speaking at a meeting of the Industry Council for Electrical Equipment Recycling (Icer), the EA said it would ensure that compliance officers are fully trained to identify breaches in WEEE regulation.

The agency confirmed that incorrectly handled compressors will be defined as hazardous waste, and it will contact approved WEEE exporters to assess compressors under their authority.

Icer member and Environcom chief executive Sean Feeney welcomed the EA’s renewed commitment to tackling the problem and acknowledged that legitimate recyclers would benefit.

“UK facilities are currently running at under-capacity due to the illegal fridge recycling practice which undercuts them due to lack of enforcement,” he said.

“Without such action as the EA has confirmed today, the economic impact could be the death of the UK fridge recycling industry and an increase in fire incidents in scrap yards up and down the UK.”

On 19 February, MRW reported dissatisfaction with current compliance efforts from legitimate recyclers. The EA responded by reaffirming its commitment to dealing with the problem.

The Environment Agency has published its 2013 waste evidence summary, claiming that the number of illegal waste sites is at a four-year low.

The summary shows that:

  • The number of permitted facilities increased by 19% between 2010 and 2013. The increase in waste treatment permits are mostly for non-hazardous waste treatment and metals recycling
  • More than 20 million tonnes of material has been diverted from landfill since 2012-13, representing a saving of about £275m to businesses
  • There were 204 serious pollution incidents in 2013 caused by waste industry activities
  • The EA stopped illegal waste activity at 732 sites in the financial year 2013-14. The number of illegal waste sites is at a four-year low

Ed Mitchell, EA director of environment and business, said: “The number of illegal waste sites is now at four-year low, but we are not complacent. It is why we are continuing to crack down on businesses that do not comply with their permit conditions and are stopping illegal activity on illegal waste sites.

“Waste companies, local authorities and businesses all have a responsibility to check what happens to their waste.”

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