High street retailer Zara Home and other businesses associated with it, have agreed to pay £26,000 in civil sanctions after failing to register as a packaging producer.
Zara Home UK Limited, Bershka UK Limited, Pull&Bear UK Limited and Massimo Dutti UK Limited, which are all owned by Spanish parent Inditex, agreed to pay the fine plus costs after failing to comply with the packaging waste regulations.
As well as not registering, Zara Home also avoided paying a charge on how much packaging it got through in the course of its business between 2010 and 2015.
A total of £13,000 has been donated to Keep Britain Tidy from the civil sanction, while The Marine Conservation Society has also received the same amount.
Environment Agency officer Jonathan Coldicott said: “Any company producing more than 50 tonnes of packaging a year, and with a turnover of above £2 million, must register with the Environment Agency or a packaging compliance scheme, and meet their responsibilities for recycling packaging waste.
“If companies fail to meet their obligations under environmental law, we will take action to ensure that they change their ways.
“The companies also agreed to take measures to ensure they comply with the packaging waste responsibilities in the future.
“As well as the charitable contributions, they paid the Environment Agency’s full costs. We’re satisfied they won’t repeat their mistakes again.”
Is this fine proportionate? For a company like Zara Home, and the other retailers associated with it, paying £26,000 to charity and the associated costs is chicken-feed.
What about the costs to others of non-compliance, such as the recycling industry that hasn’t received funding through the PRN system?
But also, this wasn’t a single mistake in isolation, but a sustained period of five years when the retailers did not comply.
If this was an exporter that made a single mistake and sent what the Environment Agency would determine as an illegal load (even if they won’t clarify what an illegal load constitutes), the exporter could face fines of hundreds of thousands of pounds.
To me, this fine for Zara Home and the three other retailers within the Inditex group, seems disproportionately low.