In a landmark ruling, judges ordered Waste Recycling Group (WRG) Central Limited, to pay over £28,000 in fines.

The company manages the Hemitage Landfill site in Berkshire, which was used to dispose of waste from local households and businesses.

The landfill site has not been in use since 2004 and was covered with a clay cap and restoration soils to completely bury and contain the waste.

WRG operated under an Environment Agency obligating it to ensure a system was in place to capture the landfill gas produced by the decomposing waste.

During remediation work to prepare the site for agricultural use, failures in the gas flare alarm system led to gas escaping.

The Environment Agency found that a number of management procedures regarding the maintenance, upkeep and monitoring of the gas collection system and gas flare were not followed.

Environment Agency pollution prevention and control officer, Chris Young, said: “The conditions of a permit require operators like WRG to ensure closed landfills are managed in a way that protects the environment and not add to the effects of climate change.

“Landfill sites can produce a significant amount of greenhouse gases long after the site has closed which needs to be carefully controlled.

“The defendant was not managing the landfill in accordance with its site management system and was unaware that the gas flare had failed.

“A prosecution for gas emissions is one of the first of its kind and serves as a reminder to operators that they must take their obligations seriously.”

In court, WRG said that it had taken steps to rectify matters following the incident, including notifying the Environment Agency and extensive monitoring of gas.

It also conducted a review of the management procedures. The company co-operated fully with the Environment Agency and pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity.

Alison Brown

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