A SCOTTISH recycling centre that sent nappy-clogged "paper" to China has been handed a five-figure sum in the worst case of its kind.

Used nappies, sanitary towels and dog excrement were amongst the 1300 tonnes of "waste paper" collected from Scottish households and destined for transit across almost 8000 miles.

The waste filled more than 50 containers, each 40 feet long.

Terry A'Hearn, chief executive of the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa), says it's the "most serious" breach his team has seen, and the largest single illegal export of household waste from Scotland.

Now Saica Natur UK has been fined £20,000 at Airdrie Sheriff Court.

The sum, reduced thanks to the company's guilty plea, is £2000 less than the export deal was worth to it.

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The company, which operates in the UK and Europe, admitted breaching waste shipping regulations in September.

But the case dates back to 2016, when Sepa officers became aware of "poor quality" waste paper bales on site during a routine audit of Saica Natur's Materials Recovery Facility at Croy, North Lanarkshire.

Investigators found glass, plastic, food waste and clothing in the bundles. They heard that while waste paper was usually sent to the company’s paper mill in Manchester to be made into cardboard, a fire had reduced its capacity so material was now being sent abroad.

Exports were told to stop and officers blocked three containers at Grangemouth Port, also working with Belgian colleagues to intercept 29 containers in Antwerp and return otherss that were already on their way to China.

Further inspections picked out electrical equipment, toys, wood and more in the rubbish, with contamination levels at almost 20%.

While a small number of bales were judged to be suitable for export, the "overwhelming majority" were not.

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Saica Nature UK told the court it has made changes, with a new training and management structure brought in as well as quality checks of incoming and outgoing material. 

The sentencing comes less than one week after the conclusion of COP26 in Glasgow.

A'Hearn said: "This incident is the most serious breach of the waste shipment regulations, in terms of the quality and quantity of the waste, that Sepa officers have witnessed.

"Saica Natur UK Limited has admitted to illegally exporting around 1300 tons of household waste misdescribed as waste paper to an overseas country in direct contravention of regulations designed to protect the environment and communities.

"These actions also risk undermining Scotland’s efforts to recycle, as stories like this create doubt in the public’s mind that the recycling they put out for collection will be appropriately managed.



"I hope this prosecution serves as a warning to everyone that Sepa will not allow Scotland’s waste to become someone else’s environmental problem.

"We’re clear in what we expect of businesses of all sizes, from SMEs to specialist companies. Ignorance of the law, and especially well-established international and domestic laws, is no excuse. SEPA will continue to invest significant regulatory effort in monitoring waste exports to ensure compliance and will use a variety of approaches to successfully detect, disrupt and deter illegal waste exports from Scotland."