A Gateshead scrap metal and plastics recycling company has been fined £10,000 for carrying out waste activities without an environmental permit.
Michael Coates Recycling Ltd, which operates two sites on Heworth Way on the Pelaw Industrial Estate, appeared at Sunderland Magistrates' Court on 2 May 2013.
The company admitted two charges of operating a waste facility without the appropriate environmental permit, and Michael Coates, the firm's director, also pleaded guilty to two similar charges of allowing activities to be carried out without a permit.
The Environment Agency took the case to court after its investigating officers discovered that the firm was receiving, sorting and storing mixed waste – activities that were not covered by the company's existing permits.
At Units 4 and 5c on Heworth Way, the firm was permitted to receive pre-sorted plastics for recycling. But in May 2011, waste including paper and aluminium cans were seen being sorted there. And in October that year, bales of mixed waste were found in storage on the site.
At Van Hee Yard, also on Heworth Way, the firm was permitted to receive pre-sorted scrap metal. But in December 2011, investigating officers witnessed wood, mattresses and foam being delivered and sorted on the site, and in January 2012 more mixed waste was seen being sorted.
As well as the fine, the company was ordered to pay legal costs of £2,000 and a victim surcharge of £15. Michael Coates himself was fined £350 and ordered to pay costs of £371.
Michael Coates Recycling has since applied for the relevant environmental permits, and is currently operating within the law. The firm has also recruited a qualified waste expert to oversee operations.
Jim Crammon, Environmental Crime Officer at the Environment Agency, said:
"The result of this case demonstrates that environmental crime is a serious offence. Michael Coates Recycling Ltd carried out a number of activities without being properly licensed, and there were continued breaches in spite of our advice.
"Following the Environment Agency's investigations, we are pleased to be able to say that the company has responded positively by obtaining appropriate permits and improving its practices to ensure the permits are not breached in the future.
"Waste operations of this nature could potentially have a harmful impact on the environment and the local community – that's why it is vital that companies know their responsibilities and operate within the conditions of their environmental permits."