After sentencing at Maidstone Crown Court, Environment Agency (EA) ports projects manager John Burns said: This is one of the largest cases of its kind and shows we wont hesitate to pursue companies who export waste illegally.
There is a legitimate and growing market abroad for recyclables, but there are rules covering waste exports and these need to be adhered to for the benefit of the environment here and abroad.
Grosvenor pleaded guilty in February of this year to six counts relating to illegally exporting shipments of around 83 40-foot containers carrying 1.8 million kgs (1,800 tonnes) of unsorted household waste to India, China and Indonesia. These amounted to breaches of the Transfrontier Shipments of Waste Regulations 1994 for incorrect notification when exporting recyclable goods.
The maximum penalty for exporting waste illegally is an unlimited fine or two years in prison, but after admitting guilt, Grosvenor also agreed to pay a contribution of £85,000 towards the EAs costs.
The prosecution follows a two-year investigation by the EA, who worked closely with HM Customs, Indonesian Customs and the Dutch environmental regulator, VROM.
While waste such as glass and paper can be sent abroad for recycling, it is illegal to export it for disposal, with mixed municipal waste subject to stricter controls under the EU Waste Shipment Regulations.
Burns added: The waste Grosvenor was sending abroad contained a poorly sorted mixture of waste including nappies, food waste, textiles, cardboard, plastic drink bottles, tin cans, sealed council recycling bags and black plastic bags.
EA officers inspecting the containers detained at Southampton and Dutch officers inspecting the containers detained in Holland all recalled the waste as smelling of household waste. In one container Dutch officers saw what looked like an animals hind quarter.
Following the sentencing, Grosvenor issued the following statement:
In sentencing and considering the developments and performance of the company over the last two years, the Judge stated: this company is a leading company in the field of ensuring that the environment is protected.
The Judge noted that the offences had occurred over a very short period of time and that Grosvenor pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity.
Grosvenor, realising the problem, had sought to put things right earlier rather than later. The prosecution accepted that there had been improvements by February 2005 less than a month after the problems experienced in January. The Judge also noted that an Environment Agency inspection in February 2006 confirmed that quality had vastly improved.
The company would like to thank its employees, customers, partners and industry colleagues for their fantastic support during the case. Grosvenor would also like to thank householders who have steadfastly continued to recycle.
In the statement, Grosvenor also wished to make clear that five of the six charges against it were for the technical error of incorrect notification and the remaining charge for a technical breach. Thirteen other charges were dropped.
The company was fined £10,000 each for counts 1 to 4 and 6 and £5,000 for count 5. It added that the court hearing made it clear that the material concerned consisted of dry recyclables. All of this material was to be and ultimately was recycled and no environmental harm had occurred.