Waste wood prosecutions have resulted in fines and costs totalling £61,380 on a West Midlands company director and his waste wood recycling operations in a case brought by the Environment Agency.
At Dudley magistrates on Friday 20 January 2023, director Robert Moody pleaded guilty to failing to ensure his companies complied with environmental permits. He was ordered to pay fines and costs of £22,170.
Moody ran three companies in the West Midlands – Berkswell Recycling Limited, Hollybush Recycling Limited and Lodgewood Recycling Limited – who were each ordered to pay fines and costs of £13,070. All the sites stored excessive amounts of wood, for a prolonged period which posed serious fire and health risks.
The court heard that Moody headed up Jack Moody Recycling Ltd, of Warstone Road, Wolverhampton, which was an umbrella company for his group.
Though officers from the Environment Agency offered frequent advice, Moody did not heed warnings about how he was failing to meet the regulations.
The warnings escalated in September 2017 when the defendant acknowledged that they were operating outside the limits and conditions at the site continued to present unacceptable risks to the environment.
Officers found that at the Lodgewood site, near Telford, stockpiles of wood were so large that there was no space to quarantine waste in the event of a fire and insufficient fire breaks.
At the Berkswell site, near Hampton-in-Arden, it was estimated there was in excess of 5,000 tonnes rather than the permitted amount of 1,620 tonnes.
Both shredded and unshredded wood were mixed in the stockpiles, increasing the potential for self-combustion.
At the Hollybush site, near Cannock, huge stockpiles of waste wood were situated on an area of the site which had no concrete surfacing to prevent pollution of the ground.
All three companies were served with Enforcement Notices in October 2017 requiring them to reduce stockpile sizes within a six-week period – these were not complied with.
The situation did not improve at all, so the Environment Agency served Suspension Notices on the three companies in March 2018. This was to prohibit any further receipt of waste until the risk of pollution was reduced.
District Judge Wheeler said the offences had been carried out over a significant period of time and were not far short of a flagrant disregard for the law.
“We welcome this sentence which should act as a deterrent to others considering flouting the law.
“These sites posed a significant environmental threat due to the high risk of fire and potentially significant impact to local communities and amenities.
“As a regulator, the Environment Agency will not hesitate to pursue companies that fail to meet its obligations to the environment.
“The conditions of an environmental permit are designed to protect people and the environment
“Failure to comply with these legal requirements is a serious offence that can damage the environment, harm human health and undermine local legitimate waste companies.Iain Storer, Installations Lead for the Environment Agency
Waste Wood Storage
The Environment Agency has imposed very rigorous controls on any operator who stores waste timber. Whilst there is a waste exemption which allows treatment of wood without an environmental permit, this is limited to 500 tonnes of waste over a 7 day period. Due to the low quantity limit in this exemption, most waste wood treatment operations will require an environmental permit.
A number of major fires at waste sites in previous years has resulted in strict fire prevention controls being imposed on permit holders, particularly for wood treatment activities. The Environment Agency has issued guidance which permit operators must comply with. The Fire Prevention Plan guidance provides details on the maximum stockpile sizes as well as the minimum water supply that sites must have to fight a fire should it occur. Any waste stored inside abuilding must have the benefit of an automatic fire suppression system. Operators must make sure the design, installation and maintenance of all automated and suppression equipment is covered by an appropriate third-party certification scheme such as UKAS. Evidence of certification must be included in the operator’s fire prevention plan.
If you require environmental advice for your business, please contact one of the Jacksons’ team.