A £1m Court fine for a waste company is another demonstration that the new Environmental Sentencing Guideline has teeth, and businesses should take note.

Powerday Plc, a large and well-established waste company operating in London and the South East, was ordered to pay £1m in fines and £243,955.35 towards the Environment Agency’s costs following prosecution for breaches of its environmental permits and for keeping of controlled waste in a manner likely to cause pollution or harm to human health.    

The offences related to more than 17,000 tonnes of waste which the Court held had been stored outside of the conditions of the environmental permits.  The waste was found to contain asbestos and other hazardous waste.  At trial, the company disputed the Environment Agency’s interpretation of the permit conditions, arguing that it was entitled to store the waste, but the Court found in favour of the Environment Agency.  The size of the fine was said to reflect the financial benefit received by the company from commission of the offence.

The case is an example of the Environment Agency’s focus on compliance within the waste industry.  Following the prosecution the Environment Agency said that it: “takes tough action against illegal activity and will not hesitate to investigate and prosecute those involved”.  Combined with much higher fines under the new Environmental Sentencing Guideline, all businesses should take a fresh look at environmental compliance because the consequences of getting it wrong can be severe.