Biffa says it “strongly contested” the case brought against them and has made an application for leave to appeal the verdict.
In June, Biffa was found guilty after a three week trial of sending contaminated household waste, described as waste paper, to China between May and June 2015. Exports of unsorted household recycling waste from the UK to China are banned.
During the Environment Agency (EA) investigation, officers said they prevented seven 25-tonne containers destined for China at Felixstowe Port from onward export.
Although marked as waste paper, the contents of the containers included soiled nappies, food packaging, items of clothing, bags of faeces, wood, tin cans, plastic bottles and electric cable.
In a hearing held at Wood Green Crown Court last week, the court fined Biffa £350,000 and ordered that the company pays costs of £240,000 and a further £9,912 under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA).
Biffa says it is appealing the verdict saying at the Chinese mills to which they were due to be exported conducted pre-checks before shipping to confirm that the materials were “98.5% pure paper” – mill, Biffa says, that were all accredited by the EA as being “of an equal or higher environmental standard as mills within the UK and Europe”.
All buyers conducted pre-checks before shipping to confirm that the materials were 98.5% pure paper, which was the accepted industry standard
A Biffa spokesperson said: “Due to the lack of reprocessing capacity, the UK and Europe is reliant on the export market for recycled paper and cardboard. This case related 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 and all our 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% pure paper, which was the accepted industry standard.
“Today our core markets for mixed recycled paper are the UK and Europe. We hope to see the EA work together with the industry to develop clearer guidance as to what are the acceptable levels of purity for UK exported mixed paper.
“We are encouraged by the support we have received from across the industry for our position on this matter.”
The EA says the jury did not accept Biffa’s version of events that consignments leaving its depot in Edmonton four years ago complied with the law because they comprised of waste paper.