A FINE of £54,365 for a lamp and luminaire recycling body who failed to meet its obligations under the law has been slammed as ‘utterly inadequate’.
Nigel Harvey, CEO of Recolight and chairman of the WEEE Scheme Forum chair said that the punishment of Northern Compliance was ‘little short of a regulatory and enforcement failure’.
Northern Compliance, one of the so-called ‘compliance schemes’ whose task it is to deal with end-of-life lamps, luminaires and other equipment under the Waste Electrical and Electronic laws, was ordered to pay fines and compensation into a WEEE compliance fee fund at South Tyneside Magistrates’ Court following a prosecution by the Environment Agency.
Northern Compliance fell short of its obligation to finance the collection and disposal of some 102 tonnes of gas discharge and LED lamps, as well as other equipment including display screens, said the Environment Agency.
For the period of 31 December 2016 and 1 April 2018, it also failed to pay the WEEE Compliance Fee Fund a substantial amount estimated to be in the region of £1,108,862, payment of which would have resulted in them conforming to their obligations under the WEEE regulations for 2017.
Northern Compliance director Vincent Eckerman told the court the company missed its WEEE collection targets due to a ‘perfect storm’ of problems with suppliers. Eckerman then realised he would be unable to pay the compliance fee as he hadn’t been prepared for the sum to be as high as it was.
The penalties included the company being ordered to pay £50,900 in compensation to the WEEE Compliance Fee Fund, where the compliance fee should have initially been paid by 31 March 2018.
The second charge saw Mr. Eckerman being ordered to pay a £2,295 fine with a £170 victim surcharge and £1,000 court costs.
Prosecuting for the Environment Agency, Rebecca Chalkley told the court that Mr. Eckerman had flagrantly disregarded the law, and his arguments stating he was not to blame amounted to ‘smoke and mirrors’.
Sentencing, District Judge Begley told the court: ‘I found his evidence verbose and lacking in clarity…he simply has not done what I would expect of a man with his experience…and he had been reckless and significantly undermined the regulatory regime.’
District Judge Begley said that the figures he imposed for fines and compensation would have been higher had the defendants had the ability to pay.
Recolight chief Nigel Harvey, however, slammed the level of the fines and compensation.
‘The WEEE industry is unlikely to look on this level of fine as a positive outcome,’ he told Lux.
‘The Environment Agency has confirmed that the cost avoided by Northern Compliance was in excess of £1.1m.
‘So a fine of a little over £50,000 is utterly inadequate. This outcome is little short of a regulatory and enforcement failure.
‘Defra and the Environment Agency will need to urgently consider their options. In the meantime, we can only conclude that, for some, WEEE crime does pay. What is more, it pays handsomely.
David O’Toole, regulated industry programme manager for the Environment Agency, said: ‘Rules and regulations are in place for people and organisations to abide by and when those legalities are broken we aim to bring the perpetrators to justice.
‘In this case, Northern Compliance have paid the ultimate price as the company is no longer trading having had its authorisation revoked and Mr Eckerman now has a criminal conviction.
‘We respect the sentencing restrictions with which the Judge had to work to in this case.
‘This prosecution shows that where a Producer Compliance Scheme fails to meet their financing obligations under the WEEE Regulations, the Environment Agency will not hesitate to take robust enforcement action against Compliance Schemes and individuals, to prevent the WEEE Regulatory regime being undermined.
‘Hopefully this will make other companies in a similar position of responsibility think twice about breaking the law and pay their compliance fees.’
- Learn more about the handling of waste lamps and luminaires at the LuxLive 2019 exhibition. The show takes place on Wednesday 13 November and Thursday 14 November 2018 at ExCeL London. Entry is free if you pre-register HERE.