Three directors of a recycling company in Wales who allowed "mountains" of food and plant waste to rot, ignoring warnings of the potential risk to the environment, have each received suspended prison sentences at Newport Crown Court.
Jacqueline Powell, Robert Baynton and Jonathan Westwood were directors of Wormtech Limited, which operated on the site of a former RAF camp near Chepstow. The firm was set up largely to turn household food waste collected by local authorities into compost.
In January, Powell, who was the firm’s managing director, was found guilty at Cardiff Crown Court of breaching an environmental permit and consenting or conniving with the keeping of controlled waste in a manner likely to cause pollution. Baynton and Westwood each pleaded guilty to three charges of failing to comply with an environment permit at a separate hearing at Newport Crown Court.
Powell’s trial was told that the company, which in 2012 was paid £1.8 million, mostly by councils, to dispose of household waste, had received several warnings from the Environment Agency and later Natural Resources Wales (NRW) that the site was one of the worst performing of its kind in England and Wales.
The warnings came after Wormtech was fined in 2010 for polluting a local watercourse. The site’s licence was suspended in 2012 and Wormtech left the premises.
Tim Evans, prosecuting, said the site was unsuitable for composting. “There had been pollution, [which] they had pleaded guilty to in 2010, but they never sorted it out and eventually the agency, now NRW, said ‘enough is enough’,” he said.
During sentencing at Newport Crown Court, Timothy Evans QC, for NRW, said leachate from the site posed a risk of harmful pathogens being released into the environment. Judge Neil Bidder said there had been a risk of E.coli and salmonella in the compost being sold.
Powell, Westwood and Baynton received sentences of 12 months, 32 weeks and 16 weeks respectively, all suspended for 12 months and to run concurrently.