Polluting plastics plant fined

12th December 2011


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  • Chemicals ,
  • Manufacturing ,
  • Corporate fine ,
  • Prosecution ,
  • Air

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IEMA

Maier UK, a major supplier of plastic parts to the automotive sector, will spend up to €1 million on improving its Staffordshire plant after being prosecuted for breaching air pollution restrictions.

The firm was fined £26,500 by Cannock Magistrates’ Court and ordered to pay a further £14,000 in costs after inspectors found the Burntwood factory had emitted 66 tonnes of solvents into the atmosphere during 2009–10, more than three times the legally imposed limit.

The plant had repeatedly breached its environmental permit with regard to solvents emissions, first receiving a caution from local environmental health inspectors in 2004. The court was told that the Spanish-owned firm failed to take action to halt emissions breaches despite agreeing to two 18-month compliance plans with the local authority.

The company blamed regular management changes, a lack of investment and the complexity of the automotive sector as the reasons for the failure of both plants.

This meant the firm continued to use high-solvent paints, instead of the industry standard low-solvent paints. Maier UK is now working to agree a third compliance plan with Lichfield District Council, but this time has promised to ensure substantial funding for the necessary actions.

Ian Pritchard, Lichfield District Council’s cabinet member responsible for housing, health and environmental protection, confirmed that inspectors were working closely with the company on the plans. “We are really pleased that Maier UK has committed to becoming compliant.

Before the firm was sentenced, it had investigated a number of options to help it become compliant, some of which could cost in the region of €1 million,” he told the environmentalist. “We will monitor Maier’s progress closely during 2012 and will take further enforcement action against the firm if it doesn’t comply.”

Solvents are used in a range of industrial activities including painting and coating plastics, as at the Maier UK plant, and are a key source of volatile organic compounds.

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