Investigation into the recycling deals of Plymouth City Council revealed illegal practices taking place in January last year.

Wastes including monitors – containing potential harmful lead – were sold on illegally to unregistered businesses around the Plymouth area.

All local authorities are required to make sure electrical and electronic goods, commonly known as WEEE, are stored securely and only sent to authorised treatment facilities for recycling and disposal.

However, when the Environment Agency looked into Plymouth’s waste dealings an unregistered site admitted receiving WEEE from the council-run Meadow Civic Amenity site.

When the EA’s inspector then asked for a transfer note – a legally required form – an employ is alleged to have told him: “What’s a transfer note?”

The council was hauled in front of Plymouth Magistrates Court this week, which heard EA fears items like televisions and washing machines sold on to third parties could be sent to Africa and may have been burnt for valuable materials inside, posing a health risk to workers and harming the environment.

Matthew Lee for the Environment Agency said: “Potentially hazardous electrical and electronic waste should have only been transferred to properly authorised waste contractors and this wasn’t happening.

“The purpose of the WEEE Regulations is to ensure waste is properly recycled in the UK and doesn’t end up in places like Africa.”

The council admitted the failing this week in court and was ordered to pay £11,742 in fines and costs.

In mitigation the court heard the council had carried out a ‘thorough review’ of its procedures and made sure all waste recycling activities are ‘legal and comply with the strictest of conditions’.

Luke Walsh

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