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Prison for improper disposal of fridges

The Guardia Civil carry out inspections during Operation Fragmentados

SPAIN: Five managers of waste sites have been given prison terms of up to four years and 200 more could face court for incorrectly disposing of refrigerators.

The Court of Madrid found the five guilty of offences against natural resources and the environment and of contravening the WEEE regulations. They were issued with fines ranging from € 2,340 to €14,400, were disqualified from operating waste management sites for up to four years and ordered to make compensation payments ranging from € 20,140 to € 28,772.

In incidents dating back to the period 2007-2010, 2,236 fridges are said to have been crushed, releasing to atmosphere refrigerants and greenhouse gases contained in the insulation equivalent to 3,378 tonnes of CO2.

The prosecutions are thought to be the first of a number court cases to be brought against individuals across Spain after investigations initiated by the Prosecutor’s Office of Environment and Land Planning of Spain in 2010. The investigations were commenced after an anonymous complaint about the irregular compliance with the WEEE regulations after more than three years of its entry into force.

Operation Fragmentados was opened and carried out in the Madrid region and in the province of Zaragoza, leading to the statement, as possible authors of unlawful criminal acts, given by 60 people in charge of various recycling phases, from freelance or distribution centre haulers to scrap dealers, large metal shredders, storage centres and even treatment plants.  

In operation Fragmentado II, 178 people charged for illegally managing more than 36,000 appliances.

The operation led by the Office of Environment and carried out by the Civil Guard’s Nature Protection Service (SEPRONA) found mismanagement in the treatment of at least 200,000 refrigerators and washing machines in recent years.

The illegal activities included selling the refrigerators for sale in thrift shops, exporting them to developing countries, extracting component parts for sale and selling the rest to unauthorised scrap yards.

The largest volume of activity centred around the cities of Barcelona and Santa Coloma de Gramanet, where inspection were carried out at 21 sales centres, resulting in the seizure of 1739 refrigerators.

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