Proof that the UK government is cracking down on compliance with packaging recycling regulations came this week after the Environmental Agency said it has fined UK cosmetics player Lush Manufacturing for failing to supply certificates of compliance.
The Agency said it had ordered Pool-based Lush Manufacturing, which is a subsidiary of Lush Cosmetics, to pay £3,688 for failing to register with the agency as well as not fully complying with the certification programme to prove that it had recovered and recycled waste packaging.
Director Karl Bygrave is far from happy with the decision to take the company to court, claiming that Lush had always been fully compliant with recycling regulations.
"The problem was not compliance with the regulations - we have consistently been reaching the threshhold for package recycling requirements. It was just the fact that we had not registered to obtain certification with the agency in 2002 and 2003," Bygrave told CosmeticsDesign.com.
"The big irony is that we have always recycled, it has been built in to our company policy since the outset and we can prove that," he added.
The Environmental Agency said that the fact Lush had not complied with the certification programme came to light in March 2004. Its regulations specify that any company with a turnover exceeding £2 million and handling in excess of 50 tonnes of packaging must comply with a certification programme. By this time the annual turn over of Lush Manufacturing had reached £12 million, following a period of significant growth.
Lush subsequently registered for the Agency's Budget Pack scheme, but evidently had failed to comply with other regulations before this time. This meant that the company had to pay £1900 and £1788 in costs after it pleaded guilty to four offences relating to packaging waste and environmental regulation passed in the 1990s.
"Although the Environmental Agency has referred to these payments as fines, it is nothing of the sort," Bygrave added. "It is a payment that we had agreed to make simply for missing the registration fees that we should have incurred."
In the face of the protests, the Environmental Agency has remained resolute over the court action and is still referring to the payments made by Lush as 'fines'.
"It is disappointing a company with a commercial ethos of minimising product packaging was unaware of these regulations which were specifically brought in to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill," said Tessa Bowering for the Environment Agency.
But the company claims that it has been fully co-operate throughout the proceedings, an attitude that it says has evidently helped it to achieve a more favourable outcome.
"Lush put its hands up and pleaded guilty to these charges of non-registration," said Mary Linehan, Lush spokesperson. "Because of this and the work we put in to comply with subsequent regulations, the authorities were supportive of us, believing us to be a laudable company."
"However, the company did also point out the tremendous challenges facing small- to medium-sized businesses trying to comply with current recycling regulations. In the past five years there have been over 3,400 individual legislations relating to package recycling and land fill regulations. Keeping up to date with them all is a challenge in itself."
During the court hearing Lush stressed that it currently re-covered and re-cycled 85 per cent of its waste packaging. Its compliance with such regulations forms part of the company's image as an environmentally-friendly and ethical business.