A whistleblower sacked for reporting alleged breaches of environmental regulations has won his case in an employment tribunal.
The Sheffield tribunal found that Steve D Wharton was wrongfully dismissed by Ward Recycling Ltd for protected disclosure (whistleblowing) about activities at its Clay Cross depot in Derbyshire.
However, the companys claim that Wharton had been dismissed for gross misconduct was not upheld.
The tribunal heard that on February 15 Wharton and colleague Martin Barnfield wrote letters to North East Derbyshire Council and Chesterfield Council reporting that a vast amount of paper collected from the public is being buried on site at the depot.
On the same day a local council officer contacted Abitibi, which contracts operation to Ward Recycling, to notify them of the disclosure. The tribunal described this action as rather odd and said: There was no doubt that via Abitibi [Ward Recycling] knew that a disclosure had been made on the day it had been made.
Wharton alleges that a clean up then took place at the site on February 16.
Shortly after this, on February 20, Wharton was suspended pending an internal misconduct investigation.
Ward Recycling denied burying paper at Clay Cross but said that paper had been put in a containment trench until it had dried out and then it was taken to landfill.
When the Environment Agency inspected the site it found insufficient evidence to show that waste had been buried on site by the company and there was no justification for any further investigation.
It also said: In making this decision we considered that the type of waste (waste paper) and the small amounts involved meant that even if material had been buried it would present a minimal environmental risk at this location.
Ward Recycling managing director Mr G Godwin was unavailable to comment when MRW contacted him.