Recycling boss jailed after dumping waste at illegal rubbish tip in abandoned Sunderland factory

The illegal waste dump in a disused Sunderland factory.
The illegal waste dump in a disused Sunderland factory.

A recycling boss has been put behind bars after dumping waste at a 650-tonne illegal rubbish tip set up in an abandoned factory.

Security padlocks at the disused plant had been changed to allow unauthorised access to the site at Lisburn Terrace, Sunderland, where unsorted and untreated waste was stockpiled.

Newcastle Crown Court heard the site was closed after a surveillance operation carried out by officers from the Environment Agency between October 2015 and 2016.

The court heard it cost the owners over £100,000 to clean up after the illegal operation was shut down.

Michael Coates, of Peareth Hall Road, Washington, who ran Aurigo Recycling and directed his drivers to dump around 140 tonnes of rubbish at the site, which he also accessed himself, has admitted five offences under the Environment Act and been jailed for 14 months.

The businessman, who was also director of CNC Northeast, had admitted dumping waste at a second abandoned building at Commercial Street, Middlesbrough.

The court heard the waste at the second base was "steaming" and had potential to "combust" when it was discovered by Environment Agency officials in 2016.

Judge Simon Batiste told Coates: "It is clear that significant profit can be generated by illegally dumping waste, rather than following a legitimate regime, which has many checks and costs attached to it.

"You knew full-well what you were doing was illegal but chose to do it anyway to manipulate greater profit for your business."

The judge banned Coates, who has a previous, similar conviction relating to a previous firm he ran, from acting as a company director for five years.

The court heard the two companies involved in the offending have since closed.

Prosecutor Lee Fish, on behalf of the Environment Agency, told the court the Sunderland deposition site was on the market for rent or sale when it was illegally targeted.

Mr Fish said: "There was illegal deposit of waste on a commercial scale.

"By July 2016, 658 tonnes had been illegally deposited at the site.

"No-one had been given permission to enter that building. There was no environmental permit."

Mr Fish said padlocks had been changed at the gates of the site to allow for illegal entry and it was being used as an "illegal tip".

The court heard the second illegal dump site, in Middlesbrough, contained "large piles of mixed waste" which was "steaming" when it was raided.

Mr Fish said: "Environment Agency officers were so concerned about what they saw they called the fire brigade.

"The fire brigade were equally concerned about what they saw.

"The waste was stored in such a way it could have spontaneously combusted at any stage.

"This would have caused a huge fire, with obvious risks to human health and environmental damage."

Nigel Edwards, defending Coates, said the businessman did not reap huge financial rewards from the offending and is a hard working family man.

At the same hearing Michael Strong, 51, of Fairleigh Road, Sunderland, admitted depositing around three tonnes of waste at the Sunderland site and was given a community order for 12 months, with 140 hours unpaid work and £500 compensation.

He admitted two offences under the Environment Act.

Strong has no previous relevant offending and has not been in trouble for more than a decade.

Rubbish dumped at the site in Sunderland

Rubbish dumped at the site in Sunderland

After the case, Jamie Fletcher, area environment manager at the Environment Agency said: "Those who ignore environmental laws can cause serious pollution to the environment, put
communities at risk and undermine legitimate business and the investment and growth that go with it.

"We’re determined to make life hard for these waste criminals. Enforcement action across the UK, carried out in cooperation with the police and HMRC, is helping to close down two illegal waste sites every day and resulting in higher fines and custodial sentences.

"We hope that the sentencing handed down today acts as a deterrent to those who may think they can get away with it."

The case was heard at Newcastle Crown Court

The case was heard at Newcastle Crown Court