Three defendants pleaded guilty today to their roles in exporting 750 tonnes of illegal waste to Brazil.
Edwards Waste Paper and its director Simon Edwards, of Loughton in Essex, both entered guilty pleas at the Old Bailey, as did John Coombe of Romford, Essex.
Julio Cesar Rando da Costa and Julio Valderama da Costa, both of Swindon, pleaded not guilty. They will face trial from 29 October.
No plea was taken from Edwards Recycling.
The prosecution follows a two-year investigation by the Environment Agency into the 2009 export of 89 containers of contaminated waste to Brazil.
The maximum penalty for exporting waste illegally is an unlimited fine or up to two years in prison.
Described as ‘mixed plastics’, the shipment was rejected by the the Brazilian Instuitue of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources and repatriated to the UK.
On the shipment’s return to Felixstowe Docks, the EA oversaw its transfer to be fumigated. Once sterilised, the contents of each container was forensically examined in a process that took several months.
Andy Higham, head of the EA’s national crime team, said: “The EA takes waste crime seriously and will pursue offenders through the courts.
“Illegal waste exports risk harm to human health and the environment in the country of export. They also undermines law-abiding recycling businesses back home.
“There is a legitimate export market for recyclable material, but those considering flouting the laws should know we will take vigorous action where there is evidence of waste being exported illegally.”
In a separate incident, the EA is continuing an investigation after almost 90 containers of alleged illegal waste from the UK were last month intercepted in Indonesia.
The containers are due to be released for repatriation by Indonesian authorities. The shipment will then take about a month to reach the UK.