Superstore group Trago Mills has had its fine for dumping waste at two of its stores slashed after telling a judge the clean-up has already cost them almost half a million pounds.
Illegal tips and bonfires were found by Environment Agency inspectors close to the shops at both Newton Abbot and Liskeard in which unsold stock, old displays, and other rubbish had been dumped.
The tips dumped and burned toxic waste including asbestos and plastics and released potentially deadly dioxins into the atmosphere, Exeter Crown Court was told.
Inspectors found two huge dumps and a burning pit close to the Newton Abbot site and a dump and bonfire hidden in a wooded valley behind their store in Liskeard, Cornwall.
A director had assured the Environment Agency there was no illegal dumping at Liskeard but a tip was found by chance when inspectors flew over it and spotted a scar on the landscape.
They then visited the scene and found employees throwing waste onto a bonfire which was still burning 11 days after being lit on Bonfire night and where the ash was waist deep.
Trago Mills and its sister company Charles Robertson Developments admitted five breaches of environmental legislation.
They were fined £185,000 with £14,588 costs by South Devon magistrates in September and appealed to Exeter Crown Court yesterday.
Judge Graham Cottle cut the fine to £65,000 after hearing that the pollution had cost the company far more than they could possibly have saved through illegal dumping. The costs remain the same.
The judge said he would give his reasons later in writing.
Mr Richard Matthews, QC, said the company had thorough recycling policies and gained no financial advantage from the illegal dumping because they were already paying a contractor to get rid of unwanted waste.
He said the clean-up had cost them £475,000; many times more than the cost of handling the waste would have been. He said much of the material at both sites was being stored in readiness for separation and recycling and had not been dumped. The directors were unaware of the other breaches.
He said: "The company funded a proper system and put in place resources for it to work and that is why they were so frustrated when they found out it had not. The idea they would benefit in any way from disposing of something like 410 litre-cans of paint is frankly ridiculous. The quantities the company dealt with properly was enormous."