Waste giant Biffa convicted of exporting unsorted household rubbish including nappies and condoms to China

Added on: 03/07/2019

The rubbish disposal company Biffa Waste Services has been convicted of breaking the law by sending household rubbish to China that was labelled as waste paper – when in fact the packages it sent included nappies, sanitary towels and condoms.

A prosecution launched by the Environment Agency (EA) accused Biffa of sending unsorted waste to China after investigators found that containers bound for the country were identified as containing glass, plastic, electronics and metal – but contained various other items.

The export of unsorted household recycling waste from the UK to China has been banned since 2006.

Biffa was found guilty of the offence after a three-week trial at Wood Green Crown Court in London.

Jurors were told that the firm used two intermediaries to manage a deal to send waste to two sites in Shenzen and Guangdong.

It paid them a combined fee of £640,000 to take more than 10,000 tonnes of what Biffa said was mixed paper.

But evidence collected by investigators at Felxistowe port found items including shoes, plastic bags, unused condoms and video tapes among the material bound for China.

The EA said it found “everything from women’s underwear and plastic bottles to metal pipes”.


‘Unacceptable level of contamination’

Sarah Mills, the EA’s enforcement manager, said the findings demonstrated a “totally unacceptable level of contamination” with other waste.

Biffa said it “strongly contested” the decision and said it would consider grounds for a potential appeal.

A spokesman for the firm added: “Throughout this case, the EA has accused Biffa of failing to meet standards that it has repeatedly failed to specify through guidance.

“With the UK recycling more, there is a level of contamination in recyclable material, which we make strenuous efforts to minimise.”

Sentencing has been deferred until 27 September.