Illegal dumper hit with $300,000 fine
SWANBANK waste operator Bio-Recycle Australia has been hit with a $300,000 after it illegally dumped hundreds of thousands of tonnes of excess waste.
Ipswich Magistrate David Shepherd on Friday said the offences were blatant and continued to occur despite the company knowing it did not have the required environmental authority for the volume of waste it was dumping.
The $300,000 fine handed down by Mr Shepherd was three times higher than the penalty sought by the Department of Environment and Science.
Bio-Recycle Australia Pty Ltd, through its barrister Michael Woodford, earlier this month pleaded guilty to two charges of carrying out an environmentally relevant activity without authority.
Mr Shepherd said the company CEO had pleaded guilty via written legal document to the two offences that occurred between November 11, 2017 to July 15, 2018; and between March 17, 2019 until May 1, 2019.
The offences were committed in breach of the Environmental Protection Act and involved its landfill operations at Swanbank.
The court heard the company did so for commercial reasons and earned in excess of $7 million from the breaches, however it was found that no environmental damage could be attributed to the offences.
Company directors listed as Michael Paul Borg, John Anthony Borg, and Neil James Schembri – who are based at its Vineyard headquarters in western Sydney – did not attend Ipswich Magistrates Court.
Mr Shepherd said the maximum penalties were fines of $2.83 million and $2.97 million.
He said Bio-Recycle Australia disposes of construction and demolition waste as landfill in Swanbank and held environmental authority to dispose of 100,000-200,000 tonnes annually.
In the first offence, Bio-Recycle disposed of 274,499 tonnes in excess of its limit.
The second offence involved more than 51,637 tonnes of excess waste material.
The company had lodged a development application for a change of use with Ipswich City Council in June 2017, and an application with the department to increase this to more than 200,000 tonnes annually.
In September 2017 the department issued qualified approval to allow disposal in excess of 200,000 tonnes, but the bid failed when Ipswich City Council refused the increase in 2018.
An appeal by the company was then dismissed by the Land and Environment Court in March 2018.
Mr Shepherd said the offending continued after ICC refusal.
He said a company letter on June 21, 2018 indicated it had difficulty reducing its waste volumes because of existing commercial agreements.
Mr Shepherd said the company earned revenue of more than $7.7 million during the relevant times.
He said it was fined in 2002 over eight charges but that legal matter was different in it involved noxious odours and burning waste.
He said the company in the offences before him had stated that it had been optimistic of receiving council approval and in a sense “had jumped the gun”.
“It was deliberately non-compliant of the limits for financial gain,” Mr Shepherd said.
“It was contemptuous of a regime which requires a permit.
“Approval was not received from Ipswich City Council and its conduct continued during the appeal process which was unsuccessful.
“The deliberate nature of the offending is an aggravating feature.”
Mr Shepherd said environmental issues loom large on the public conscious as did environmental integrity, with much public time taken up by it.
He said defence argument that “public shaming” would occur was not one to be given much weight.
Mr Shepherd said that while this case did not cause environmental harm, and the waste did not exceed the capacity of the voids, it warranted a penalty of a $300,000 fine.
He ordered Bio-Recycle Australia to also pay the legal and investigative costs of the prosecution.