Van Dalen UK has been fined the maximum amount of £100,000 for dismantling fridges in a manner likely to damage the ozone layer.
The Rotherham-based outfit was ordered to pay the fine by Chesterfield Magistrates Court after it pleaded guilty to dismantling refrigeration units at its Newbridge Lane site in Chesterfield and ignoring several warnings to stop activity.
The company had been granted a waste management licence for the site in June 2003, but on the specific instructions that it could not start dismantling fridges and freezers until an appropriate way of working had been agreed with the Environment Agency (EA).
However, after receiving information that the operation had carried on regardless, several warnings were issued, with EA officials insisting the site be cleared of fridges and processing stopped.
Video footage taken by undercover EA officers during July 2004 showed the company was still dismantling refrigeration units and turning them into scrap metal.
A statement from EA expert witness doctor Paul Salter stated that there was no doubt in his mind “that the actions of Van Dalen had resulted directly in CFCs being released into the environment and these would have caused harm to the ozone layer.”
More than 1,000 units were found to be stored in various stages of dismantling, with drainage channels blocked by insulating foam and a board in the office read ‘sales to 29 July £41,500’.
EA team leader Jacqui Savage said: “This was a deliberate and calculated action by the company. They purposefully touted the law for profit, releasing chemicals that damaged the ozone layer.
“The EA will not tolerate companies that put profit before the environment.”
The company was fined £20,000 each for five offences and ordered to pay £4,151 costs after magistrates felt that the company was not the victim of legislation but the environment was the victim.
Van Dalen UK claims that it has since spent £500,000 on new equipment and invested £1.5 million on recycling technology.