Recycling firm Niramax fined £16,000 over environmental breaches

Tyres at the Hartlepool site.
Tyres at the Hartlepool site.
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A recycling company has been fined £16,000 after admitting two environmental offences in Hartlepool and Washington.

Niramax Group Ltd pleaded guilty to offences relating to the storing of a huge pile of shredded tyres at its Tofts Road site in Hartlepool breaching the terms of its environmental permit by giving off dust and creating a fire hazard.

Waste at the Washington site.

Waste at the Washington site.

It was also fined over an infestation of flies, which prosecutors said was preventable, at a waste transfer station at Monument Park in Washington.

The company was prosecuted by the Environment Agency.

In relation to the Hartlepool offence, Lee Fish, prosecuting for the agency, told Teesside Crown Court that an enforcement notice was served on the company in March 2016 following complaints about dust coming from the Tofts Road site.

An inspection found the company was not storing shredded tyres in individual bays as required under their permit.

Tyres at the Hartlepool site

Tyres at the Hartlepool site

Mr Fish said: "Officers were immediately concerned about what they saw."

A photograph showed the bays buried beneath the tyres.

The company admitted failing to comply with the conditions of the enforcement notice by June 15, 2016, when Mr Fish said there were still no fire breaks provided.

The court also heard how a lack of large, sticky fly boards at the Monument Park site transfer site in April 2015 led to an infestation of flies both inside and outside a shed where waste was being stored.

Flies can be seen at the Washington site

Flies can be seen at the Washington site

It coincided with a sudden spike in temperatures over the Easter Bank Holiday weekend.

Mr Fish said: "It's the prosecution's submission that these offences have been committed due to negligence.

"In relation to the flies, there was insufficient measures or awareness at the site as to what the company's responsibilities were for mitigating against the risks of pests."

Nigel Edwards, mitigating, said the company was overcome by the sudden "exceptional" heatwave and acted as quickly as possible given the Easter break.

Regarding the tyres, he said Niramax had seen surge in demand due to fewer firms being able to take them. He said 98% of them had been processed by the time of the breach.

Mr Edwards said: "They felt obliged to take up the slack in relation to that and assist what was going on within the waste management industry.

"The reality is they were doing their level best."

He added: "This is not a rogue operator."

Kevin Wanless, Niramax operations director at the time of the offences, said: "We have got quality management systems in place which we have always had.

"For the last year and a half now the site has been compliant."

The court heard how the firm's turnover has seen a downward trend in the last three years from £36m to £20m, and in 2017 it made a net loss of around £3m.

The judge, Recorder Mark McKone, said the tyres breach was more serious due to the fire risk.

He added: "It's inevitable that dealing in waste is expensive and it's important that corners are not cut either deliberately or negligently."

Niramax was also ordered to pay £10,000 towards the Environment Agency's legal costs.

Rachael Caldwell, Enforcement Team Leader at the Environment Agency, said: “Environmental laws exist for a reason – to protect the environment and communities – so it is vital that waste operators meet the conditions of their permits.

“In both of these cases there was a negative impact on the local areas, which is extremely unpleasant and unacceptable and not something communities should have to endure.

“We always treat operators fairly and ensure they understand the potential impact their activities can have, and work together with them to help bring sites into compliance.

“At Hartlepool we gave Niramax ample opportunity to bring their site back into compliance, and at Washington we gave them five days to act on what was a serious fly infestation.

“But they repeatedly showed little regard for the detrimental impact on their neighbours and the environment.

"And during our investigation they even described our actions – to protect the environment and the community – as ‘nit picking’.

“I hope this case reassures our communities that we will do everything possible to ensure operators comply with their permit, and take enforcement action when they don’t.”