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Biffa: EA failed to specify required level of purity

Biffa Truck in London, Copyright: Biffa
Biffa Truck in London, Copyright: Biffa
25 Jun 2019 − 

After having been convicted of breaching the waste export law, British recycling company Biffa said it strongly contested this case and was very disappointed with this outcome.

A spokesperson told EUWID: "We are considering our position and grounds for appeal. At the time of the case we supplied a vital raw material to China to be recycled in an environmentally sound manner as an alternative to forestry. The materials we supplied commanded market-leading prices and met both international industry and customer standards. Throughout this case the Environment Agency (EA) has accused Biffa of failing to meet standards that it has repeatedly failed to specify through guidance. The EA has been continually asked to specify a required level of purity by both the industry, and in one instance the Court of Appeal, and the failure to do so is a breach of its responsibilities to the market.

"Due to the lack of reprocessing capacity, the UK and Europe is reliant on the export market for recycled paper and cardboard. The charges in the case relate to contamination levels in seven containers of mixed paper that were due for export to China over four years ago. At that time China was a core market for UK exported materials for recycled paper and cardboard, and Biffa was a key supplier to some of the largest, best-invested cardboard mills in China. These mills were all accredited by the EA as being of an equal or higher environmental standard as mills within the UK and Europe.

"These materials were regularly inspected by customs in China and by a Chinese Inspectorate regime based in the UK prior to shipping. In addition, all buyers conducted pre-checks before shipping to confirm that the materials were 98.5 per cent pure paper, which was the accepted industry standard. With the UK recycling more, there is a level of contamination in recyclable material, which we make strenuous efforts to minimise at our industry leading sorting facilities and reprocessing capabilities. The court heard no evidence to suggest we were outside of the industry tolerance for contamination and no customer ever rejected any material on quality grounds.

"This case highlights the need for the EA to issue clear guidance to the industry as to what are the acceptable levels of purity for UK exported mixed paper. In this instance the jury was asked to make a judgement as to whether they considered the level of contamination was minimal, without any quantitative guidance. In the absence of any EA guidelines our products always met the standards set by our customers and provided a route to recycling in an environmentally sound manner.” 

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