COMPANIES across Scotland have been warned by the government’s green watchdog, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa), to stop breaking the law on packaging waste.
This follows the first successful prosecution of a Scottish company for failing to comply with packaging regulations which came into force in 1997. The meat distributor Scotbeef pled guilty to “free riding” by not registering as a producer of packaging waste for three years.
Any company with a turnover exceeding £2 million and producing more than 50 tonnes of packaging a year has to register under the regulations. Prompted by a European directive, the rules oblige companies to pay to cut packaging waste and increase recycling.
Sepa’s investigating officer, Patrick McKell, said: “The regulations seek to ensure that funds are in place to cover the cost of recycling packaging by placing obligations on companies that handle packaging.
“ This first prosecution for free-riding must been seen as a warning to other companies to take their producer responsibility obligations for packaging waste seriously.”
Scotbeef, based in East Kilbride, was fined £1200 at Hamilton Sheriff Court on September 29 for failing to register under the regulations between 2001 and 2003.
The company is one of the major sellers of Scottish beef and in 2003 won an excellence award backed by Scottish Enterprise for a “healthy eating” children’s burger with hidden vegetables.
Environmental groups welcome Sepa’s action, but criticised the fine imposed as “derisory”. It is much lower than the average fine of £6223 in the 30 prosecutions under the regulations in England and Wales in 2003.
Duncan McLaren, chief executive of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: “This fine can certainly not be considered any sort of disincentive .”
A spokesman for Scotbeef declined to comment.
A million tonnes of packaging waste – more than 2500 tonnes a day – is generated every year in Scotland, with the majority being dumped in landfill sites.
The Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging Waste) Regulations were introduced in 1997 to implement a European directive on packaging waste. The UK must recycle between 55% and 80% of packaging waste by the end of 2008.
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