A major paper exporter has stopped its trade in Scotland due to confusion over permitted levels of contamination, MRW has learned.
Mark Lyndon Paper told MRW that the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) wants the procurator fiscal to take action over alleged contaminated loads for export.
The company, which exported 1.5m tonnes of paper from the UK last year, says it has already spent hundreds of thousands of pounds defending itself.
Managing director Paul Briggs said: “14 containers were inspected last year and I was told personally by a Sepa official that zero contamination was required in any load.
“I have been shown three photographs: one of an 18 inch piece of wood, one with five Coke cans and one that’s got some pieces of plastic. Subsequently the containers were stopped and I’ve been put forward by Sepa for prosecution.
“Consequently, we’ve pulled out of doing any business in Scotland, because we’re too nervous.”
Briggs’ comments followed months of concern from exporters that Sepa was adopting a too literal interpretation of a 0% contamination requirement European waste shipment regulations.
Sepa said it could not comment on the case as the investigation was ongoing.
But Sepa producer compliance and waste shipments unit manager, Colin Morrow previously told MRW: “We understand that a target of 0% contamination is a virtually impossible task and actively work with operators to address their individual issues.”
The Recycling Association (RA), of which the company is a member, has organised a seminar with Sepa and the Environment Agency (EA) to try to agree contamination limits on paper exports.
Natural Resources Wales (NRW) declined an invitation to the seminar on Lancaster on 9 June because it is “primarily directed towards businesses exporting waste from Scotland”.
The RA has already held initial discussions over inspection procedures with the EA.
Sepa has stopped members’ loads over contamination levels even though a percentage cap on non-paper material is currently unspecified across the UK, according to the association.
RA chief executive Simon Ellin, left, told MRW that a distinction must be made between hazardous and non-hazardous material, with the RA supporting a 0% cap on the former.
Ellin, left, said: “We desperately, like the whole industry, want to weed out the illegal operators that are deliberately exporting hazardous material under the auspices of green list waste.
“But if there is 4% plastic in the paper load, it is not a regulatory problem as it is non-hazardous.
“One of the objectives from the meeting is to adopt a standard cap across England and Scotland.
“Our Welsh members would say there is a similar problem with NRW and that’s why we invited them to attend as well but they declined, which is disappointing.”
NRW waste and resources manager, Rebecca Favager said:
“As this seminar is primarily directed towards businesses exporting waste from Scotland, we believe that the other UK regulators would be better able to provide advice and guidance.
“We work closely with Sepa and the EA to discuss issues like this to make sure there is a consistent approach across the UK.”
Presentations at the seminar will be made by Ellin, Morrow, and solicitor John Dyne.
Morrow told MRW: “My presentation will give a perspective on Sepa’s regulation of the export of dry recyclable waste.
“The objective is to engage with the sector and give them as much information as possible about the work that we undertake in this area, as well as the general areas of non-compliance that we come across and what practical steps they can take to reduce the chances of them being involved with an illegal export.
He added: “It will also deal with the issue of contamination.”