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Firm told to clear fridge pile or face fine

David Hencke, Westminster correspondent Wednesday September 11, 2002, The Guardian.

The firm accumulating the UK's biggest fridge mountain has been given 60 days by the environment agency to clear its sites, including some in the constituency of the environment minister, Michael Meacher, or risk fines of up to £5,000.

The move announced yesterday is the first action by a government agency to clean up the mess following the debacle over an EU directive that all fridges must have potentially harmful CFC gases removed before scrapping.

Britannia Import Export Limited has more than 150,000, out of a national stockpile of 1m, on sites in the Greater Manchester area: one each in the city itself, Chadderton, and Trafford Park; two in Oldham; and three in Failsworth. Mr Meacher, MP for Oldham West and Royton, was severely criticised by the Commons environment committee for not understanding the significance of the directive that came in earlier this year.

He has until now given firms leeway to store fridges pending a licence application for safe disposal, a step aimed at preventing fly-tipping. The government has also set aside £40m - many fridges will have to be
exported to be recycled, as Britain has very few facilities to remove the harmful gases safely.

The environment agency indicated it had difficulties negotiating disposal licences with Britannia - information on the firm's financial ability, planning rules, and drainage on the sites had been withheld. If it did not now supply the information "Britannia will have 60 days, until November 4, to clear all eight sites of waste fridges". Failure could result in fines of up to £5,000, plus £500 for each day an offence continued after conviction.

Keith Ashcroft, the agency's local manager, said: "Serving notices is a first step. Whether we enforce them depends on satisfactory progress by Britannia on its licence applications."

The firm had no comment to make yesterday.

This article was kindly provided by Dr. Richard Dixon for ScoWaste, a mailing list run by SRMS for RAGS and FoE Scotland, and was originally published in The Guardian, 11/9/02.

 


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