Waste giant loses appeal over fines for waste shipment regulations

Biffa has failed to overturn more than £600,000 of fines and costs imposed over an attempt to export contaminated waste to China.

It took the case to the Court of Appeal after being convicted last year at Wood Green Crown Court when it pleaded not guilty to two breaches of regulation 23 of the Transfrontier Shipment of Waste Regulations 2007.

Biffa was fined £350,000 with costs of £240,000, a £9,912 payment under the Proceeds of Crime Act and a £120 victim surcharge.

The offences arose in May and June 2015 over shipments to China. Environment Agency inspectors impounded seven 25-tonne containers at Felixstowe docks, which purported to contain only paper for recycling but which were found to be contaminated with soiled nappies, food packaging, plastic bottles and electric cables among other items.

In Biffa Waste Services Ltd v R. [2020] EWCA Crim 827 Lord Justice Holroyde dismissed both Biffa’s grounds of appeal.

Biffa argued that the crown court judge erroneously excluded evidence as to whether the waste complied with standards for recycling in an environmentally sound manner once it reached China.

Holroyde LJ said: “The judge was correct to rule that evidence as to compliance with Chinese standards or as to the ability of the Chinese purchasers to recycle the waste was inadmissible.”

He said the offence of exporting contaminated waste happened in England and what might have happened to the material in China was therefore irrelevant.

Biffa’s second ground of appeal was that the judge should not have allowed evidence of the company’s previous convictions to be put before the jury by counsel seeking to establish the firm had a ‘bad character’.

The judge said the crown court had been “clearly entitled to find that the evidence given by [Biffa]…could convey the impression that [it] was not the sort of company which would commit an offence”.

Holroyde LJ added: “The judge was therefore correct to rule that the prosecution could adduce evidence to the extent necessary to correct any false impression.”

A Biffa spokesperson said: “We are disappointed with this outcome and are now considering our options.”

(c) HB Editorial Services Ltd 2009-2019