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Food recycling company fined for illegal waste activities

23 November 2022

A FOOD waste recycling company has been fined £36k for the illegal spreading and storage of waste at three sites in South Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, in a sentencing case heard at Doncaster Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday 16 November 2022.

In September 2022, Whites Recycling Limited pleaded guilty to eight offences, including the breach of environmental permit conditions related to the spreading of waste to farmland in Auckley and Blaxton, Doncaster, and Susworth, Lincolnshire, contrary to the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2016.

Doncaster Magistrates’ Court heard that Whites Recycling Limited, in breach of its environmental permit, spread liquid waste to fields near to Ivy House Farm, Auckley between March and May 2018; to Acomb Farm, Blaxton in November and December 2018; and to East Ferry Road, Susworth, Lincolnshire in November and December 2019.

Liquid wastes containing nitrogen and phosphates were spread on land by the company at the wrong time of year or in excessive quantities, which posed a risk of pollution to groundwater. In addition, the Lincolnshire-based company pleaded guilty to illegally storing liquid waste in a storage tank on Acomb Farm between July 2017 and April 2018.

Whites Recycling Limited is a company involved in the disposal and recycling of waste sludge and liquid waste, the majority of which are generated by the food industry.  The company can lawfully spread such waste to farmland in circumstances where it can be demonstrated that land spreading will result in agricultural or ecological benefit.

Although the company had an environmental permit that allowed it to spread food waste to land for agricultural benefit, it was a condition of its permit that before it could start to store or spread waste at a location, it must notify the Environment Agency using a deployment form, and the Environment Agency must agree to the spreading.

This ensures that waste is only permitted to be spread to land when it benefits either the soil or the crop being grown in it and where it will not pose a risk of harm to the environment. If waste is spread to land without a deployment first having been agreed, or if waste is spread to land in circumstances which are not in accordance with the agreed deployment, then there is a risk of environmental harm.

In passing sentence, District Judge Young stated that the company had been negligent, in that it had failed to take reasonable care to put in place and enforce proper systems for avoiding the offences. The court acknowledged that the company had reviewed its systems and steps had been taken designed to avoid further offending. The court stated that it had to balance the need to bring home to the company’s management and shareholders the need to improve regulatory compliance, with the fact that the company had recently been operating at a loss.

The Court fined the company £36,000 and further ordered the company to pay a statutory surcharge of £170, and the Environment Agency’s investigation and legal costs of £38,008.17.

After the sentencing, Area Environment Manager Steve Lawrie said, "Our rules are in place for a good reason and to ensure that any material that is spread is done correctly and managed in a way that protects the environment. We will not hesitate to take enforcement action in future for those who breach their permits and refuse to cooperate.

"We hope this case sends a message to other land spreading operators and farmers that we take land spreading offences very seriously. Operators must follow the correct procedures to ensure they spread safely, in accordance with their environmental permits."