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SEPA suspend waste licence as part of enhanced package of enforcement action at Kilwinning battery fire site

Date published: 27 May 2024

Regulations and licenses

Scotland’s environmental regulator have suspended the Waste Management Licence belonging to the operator of the Kilwinning battery recycling site where a major fire broke out on 8th April 2024 - meaning no waste can be accepted, stored or treated by the company.

Two enforcement notices have been served by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) requiring Fenix Battery Recycling Ltd to remove waste batteries that have been on the site at West Byrehill Industrial Estate for longer than six months. The Agency have also suspended approval as an Approved Battery Treatment Operator (ABTO).  
The only activities, within the scope of regulation by SEPA, that can currently be carried out by the company at the Kilwinning site are the removal of waste to appropriately licenced sites. 
SEPA have issued the enhanced package of enforcement actions following both non-compliance with licence conditions and site infrastructure being destroyed by the fire. Continuing to carry on the licensed activities at the site in its current condition would be considered a risk which could cause serious pollution of the environment and serious harm to human health. 
Lin Bunten, SEPA Chief Operating Officer, Regulation, Business, and Environment, said: 
"The package of enforcement action we have set out is in response to a significant incident and designed to protect the environment and communities in the area surrounding the Fenix Battery Recycling Ltd site in Kilwinning. The decision to suspend a licence is never taken lightly, but it is one of the enforcement tools we have available and one we will use when we believe it is required to prevent risk of harm to the environment. 
"The operator is required to remove the waste which breaches licence conditions offsite to an appropriately licensed facility by the dates we have set out in the Enforcement Notices. The suspension of the Waste Management Licence (WML) will remain in place until we are satisfied that the conditions as specified in the suspension notice have been adhered to - which include requirements concerning site infrastructure, a fire prevention and mitigation plan and fire detection system. 
"We partially suspended Fenix Battery Recycling Ltd’s licence last year when it failed to comply with a previous enforcement notice we served. This prevented them receiving any more special waste on site after 17.00 hours on 3rd November 2023. We will not hesitate to take further action, in line with our enforcement policy, as required." 

Enforcement Notices

The Enforcement Notices served by SEPA require waste to be removed to an appropriately licensed facility by the following dates: 

  • 4th June 2024 - all unprocessed waste (namely waste batteries) which has remained within the back/rear yard of the site for more than six months.
  • 13th July 2024 - all treated and unprocessed waste stored within the footprint of the fire damaged building on site for more than six months.

Recent examinations of Fenix Battery Recycling Ltd’s system for the tracking of waste and inspections of the site by SEPA enforcement officers indicate that unprocessed and treated waste (namely waste batteries) has remained on site for longer than six months without SEPA’s prior approval. These are breaches of conditions within the WML.  
In addition, an Incident Investigation Report with respect to the fire on site is to be submitted to SEPA by 10th June 2024. This must include the circumstances of the incident, the steps taken by the licence holder to bring the incident to an end and the proposals for preventing a repetition of the incident. This report was due within 14 days of the fire and has yet not been received.

Suspension of Waste Management Licence (WML)

The suspension of Fenix Battery Recycling Ltd’s WML will remain in place until a series of actions have been taken and confirmed as completed to SEPA’s satisfaction.  
As well as the removal of waste batteries as laid out in the Enforcement Notices, the operator must ensure that:

  • All fire debris has been removed from the site, and all site infrastructure has been replaced or repaired and all services restored to the site.  
  • A fire prevention and mitigation plan is submitted to SEPA and is implemented at the site in relation to battery storage areas. This shall include ensuring sufficient access for the Fire and Rescue vehicles.  
  • A fire detection system is installed to detect any fire within the building or area outwith the building where batteries are stored. This shall be connected to audible and visual alarm. 

ABTO Suspension

SEPA have also suspended Fenix Battery Recycling Ltd’s approval as an ABTO until satisfied that:

  • The site has suitable weatherproof covering in place to enable the treatment of all waste batteries.  
  • Weighing equipment is in place to enable reporting of the amount of waste batteries, each category of waste battery and the chemistry type for each category of waste battery accepted on site.  
  • All waste batteries stored (including those stored temporarily) in the footprint of the fire damaged building on site are stored in suitable containers.

Previous Enforcement Action

In November 2023 SEPA partially suspended the site’s licence after failure to comply with a notice to reduce the amount of batteries on the site classed as special waste under The Special Waste Regulations 1996 to the authorised tonnage. Examples include nickel cadmium and lead acid batteries.  
A further Notice regarding the breach of the time limit conditions for battery storage was being prepared by SEPA at the time of the fire. 
SEPA can confirm that although there has been discussion with the company about a proposed new site in Glasgow, no application has been made and no authorisation has been granted to Fenix Battery Recycling Ltd for a site in Glasgow.

Notes to Editor