European Metal Recycling Ltd, UK Environmental Ltd and its sole director Amar Seth all admitted to playing a part in the exploitation of Stowey Quarry as a cheap way to dispose of unpermitted waste and save money instead of paying for disposal through legitimate sites.
An investigation revealed 2001 tonnes of metal, foam and plastic shreds from end-of-life vehicles were sent from Tilbury Docks in London to the former limestone quarry near Chew Valley Reservoir under the guise of non-hazardous ‘mechanically treated soil substitute’.
Stowey Quarry was not allowed to receive such waste. Businessman Mark Foley, who was supposed to be accepting a limited amount of clean, inert waste to create bunds and embankments as a waste recovery enterprise, was instead running an illegal landfill operation. Foley is now serving a custodial sentence and his firm fined £72,000.
A three-year investigation by the Environment Agency discovered that Amar Seth, the sole director of UK Environmental Ltd, brokered a deal with European Metal Recycling Ltd to send waste from shredded automobiles cheaply to Stowey Quarry to save the firm an estimated £32,000 in disposal costs.
UK Environmental Ltd had also arranged the sending of shredded bin bag waste from Wales to the quarry as ‘soil substitute’. The subsequent investigation confirmed this was just a small proportion of similarly brokered deals.
UK Environmental Ltd was fined £28,000 and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £83,000. UK Environmental Ltd further agreed Confiscation figure £7,048.
European Metal Recycling Ltd was fined £400,000 and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £350,000.00. European Metal Recycling further agreed Confiscation figure £32,958.
Rebecca Kirk of the Environment Agency said:
This is the conclusion of one of the biggest criminal investigations we have conducted in the South West. It has taken many years and forensic analysis of criminal behaviour at many levels in the supply chain.
Sadly, the sentences cannot undo the environmental harm that has been done and the distress to the community, but they will serve as a deterrent to anyone who thinks waste crime is a soft option that doesn’t carry consequences.
Bristol Crown Court heard that European Metal Recycling Ltd had a deadline to remove thousands of tonnes of automotive shredded residue from the dockside of Tilbury Docks in London. Most of this was earmarked for its waste-to-energy site in Oldbury. But at least 2,001 tonnes of fine shreds, up to 8mm in size, were sent across country to Stowey Quarry over a period of 16 days during May and June 2016. The loads were wrongly classified to stay compliant with the quarry’s permit for clean, inert waste.
An independent lab test of a waste sample from Tilbury Docks proved it was not inert. However, European Metal Recycling Ltd had already begun shipping the waste to Stowey Quarry eight days earlier. Testing by the Environment Agency later confirmed a waste sample from the docks as toxic to the environment.
UK Environmental Ltd told the metal exporter to cease all shipments to Stowey Quarry on 19 May 2016 because of concerns of waste arriving to site from elsewhere and residents’ issues with lorry movements. However, the Environment Agency told the court it believed another 19 loads were sent between 1 and 10 June, arranged by the broker.
European Metal Recycling Ltd had sent an auditor who claimed the site was suitable to receive the waste. The firm also claimed the waste was mixed with sand, stone and soil in keeping with the material found at Stowey Quarry. However, the Environment Agency contended this mixing process was not happening before it arrived and would not make it any less hazardous to the environment.