Scotland’s environmental regulator has suspended the licence of the operator of the Kilwinning battery recycling site where a major fire broke out in April.

And that means no waste can be accepted, stored or treated by the company. 

Two enforcement notices have now 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 regulator has also revealed that the firm's licence was partly suspended last year after it failed to comply with a previous enforcement notice.

The agency has also suspended the firm's approval as an Approved Battery Treatment Operator (ABTO). 

The huge blaze broke out on the night of Monday, April 8, with firefighters remaining on site until the afternoon of Friday, April 12 to dampen down the flames and make sure the area was safe.

People living nearby were advised to stay indoors and close all doors and windows although there were no casualties as a result of the incident.

SEPA has also revealed that Fenix had been considering quitting the Kilwinning site and moving to Glasgow. No application has yet been made.

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald: Emergency services at the scene

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 licensed sites.

SEPA says it has issued the enforcement actions following both non-compliance with licence conditions and site infrastructure being destroyed by the fire.

They said 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's chief operating officer for 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."

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald: SEPA's Lin BuntenSEPA's Lin Bunten (Image: SEPA)

She added: "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 5pm on November 3.

"We will not hesitate to take further action, in line with our enforcement policy, as required." 

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

  • June 24: All unprocessed waste (namely waste batteries) which has remained within the back/rear yard of the site for more than six months.
  • July 13: 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 June 10.

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. 

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.  

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. 

A North Ayrshire Council spokesperson said: “We have been working as part of a multi-agency response to the fire at the battery recycling centre in Kilwinning.

“We were fully informed of the decision of SEPA, who are the regulatory body responsible for the Waste Management Licence, and will continue to work with partners on this matter.”

Fenix have been approached for comment.