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When the landlord calls

September 28, 2018

The phone rings and the caller asks: “Can you dispose of some old toner and inkjet cartridges?” A typical enquiry and, if there is some money in it, you want the business. However, how would you handle over 1,100 pallets of toner and inkjet cartridges?

That was the question facing Terry Bridgeman, the owner and managing director of UK based Ohana Technology last September (2017) from the landlord of West Raynham Business Park, a former RAF station and a mixed-use site of residential homes and an eclectic mix of businesses including a film production studio.

Ohana Technology operates on the collection side of the industry; providing sustainable waste solutions is the most significant part of their business, and the landlord had the problem that following the closure, in early 2017, of Blue Frog Waste Management, located on the same business park, they had left behind approximately 500 tonnes (over 1,100 pallets) of unprocessed WEEE consisting of waste toner and inkjet cartridges. This waste had been left in multiple buildings that the landlord subsequently could not rent out and had the burden of clearing the waste out so that the buildings could be made available to re-let. 

According to Bridgman, “The WEEE waste is legally the responsibility of the producer who placed the products on the market and until it is correctly disposed of, is the responsibility of the companies that had contracted with Blue Frog Waste Management to dispose of the waste. Fortunately for those companies, there were no detailed records available to identify which pallets of waste belonged to which company. In this situation, the burden falls on the landlord to clear the site and try to recover the costs from the owners of the company. 

Non-compliance with WEEE regulations can lead to fines and criminal sanctions. Small infringements can attract a penalty up to £5,000 ($6,528/€5,625) per offence, and more significant cases can attract an unlimited fine and the Environment Agency now has the right to impose civil sanctions in some instances, including fines. 

We see that many companies are unaware of their obligations under the WEEE Legislation. They need to register with the relevant agency and provide information concerning the waste recovered each year. They also need to arrange for the disposal of their waste either by carrying out the recovery and recycling of waste themselves or by using a third-party company that is part of a registered compliance scheme who will carry out the recovery and recycling obligations on its behalf.” 

Before any work could begin, the UK’s Environment Agency visited the site, and before work commenced, detailed method statements of how the work was to be carried out and how the waste was to be processed had to be submitted. Once the approval was granted additional staff had to be taken on and trained and so the task of clearing all the buildings began in earnest in January 2018. 

The majority of the pallets consisted of a mixed waste of ink and toner cartridges and empty toner bottles. These all had to be checked, sorted and separated before moving anything off-site for processing. The separated waste was consolidated and sent for onward treatment to plants in the UK, Belgium and the Netherlands. High value recovered materials were sold within the UK domestic market and exported to Europe, North America and Asia.

According to Bridgman, “The whole process took 18 weeks to complete in parallel with our day to day business, but the detailed planning and additional staff made it possible. Once the work was done we had a further from the Environment Agency or visited the buildings and inspected our records. Overall the job was fairly straightforward, and the biggest challenge was to deal with a significant amount of mixed plastic waste that we don’t normally deal with, but a few phone calls and a little help in the right direction enabled us to dispose of it all properly. Thankfully there were no hazards involved in clearing the site and returning it to normal. In fact, there was nothing out of the ordinary that we have not seen over the past 25 years.”

 

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