SEPA uncovers largest single illegal export of household waste from Scotland

A UK and European recycling company was fined £20,000 at Airdrie Sheriff Court recently after the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) uncovered the largest single illegal export of household waste from Scotland.

Saica Natur UK Limited pleaded guilty on 21 September 2021 at Airdrie Sheriff Court to transporting waste collected from households (code Y46) to China in contravention of Article 36(1) of the Waste Shipment Regulation (EC1013/2006) and Regulation 23 of the Transfrontier Shipment of Waste Regulations 2007 (the Waste Shipment Regulations). Sentencing was deferred until 16 November.

The matter was investigated by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and referred to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service.

The waste, which came from the company’s Croy facility, was wrongly described as waste paper and totalled around 1,300 tonnes. It was loaded inside 51 forty-foot shipping containers destined for recycling in China.

This incident is the most serious breach of the Waste Shipment Regulations, in terms of the quality and quantity of the waste, that SEPA officers have witnessed.

SEPA officers examining the bales of waste discovered electrical and electronic equipment, used nappies, sanitary towels, food contaminated packaging, food, dog excrement, wood, textiles, shoes, clothing, jewellery, aerosol cans, toys, glass, plastic food and drinks containers and cans.

Terry A’Hearn, SEPA’s Chief Executive, said: “This incident is the most serious breach of the Waste Shipment Regulations, in terms of the quality and quantity of the waste, that SEPA officers have witnessed.

“SAICA Natur UK Limited has admitted to illegally exporting around 1,300 tons of household waste misdescribed as waste paper to an overseas country in direct contravention of regulations designed to protect the environment and communities. These actions also risk undermining Scotland’s efforts to recycle, as stories like this create doubt in the public’s mind that the recycling they put out for collection will be appropriately managed.

“I hope this prosecution serves as a warning to everyone that SEPA will not allow Scotland’s waste to become someone else’s environmental problem.

“We’re clear in what we expect of businesses of all sizes, from SMEs to specialist companies. Ignorance of the law, and especially well-established international and domestic laws, is no excuse. SEPA will continue to invest significant regulatory effort in monitoring waste exports to ensure compliance and will use a variety of approaches to successfully detect, disrupt and deter illegal waste exports from Scotland.”

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SEPA uncovers largest single illegal export of household waste from Scotland