TOUGHER penalties and stronger investigatory powers should be adopted by the government to clamp down on rogue waste operators, an independent review has warned.
The cost of waste crime to the English economy rocketed to £600m in 2015 and the review, ordered by environment secretary Michael Gove, concluded that compulsory electronic tracking of waste could help clamp down on illegal movements of waste at home and abroad.
Welcoming the findings, Mr Gove said: “The threat to society from waste crime is real. Criminals are running illegal waste sites as a cover for theft, human trafficking, drug running and money laundering. It is costing our economy millions of pounds each year, and blighting our communities. I welcome today’s review. We are committed to clamping down on these unscrupulous groups and we will set out our next steps in our forthcoming Resources and Waste Strategy.”
Other recommendations include:
- A Joint Unit for Waste Crime (JUWC) led by the Environment Agency with the police, crime commissioners, HMRC and waste industry representatives working together to tackle the most serious cases;
- a national database of registered waste brokers to make it harder for unscrupulous operators to do businesses.
Lizzie Noel who chaired the review said: “Our intention must be to give the criminals responsible real cause to fear the consequences of their actions.”
Between 2011 and 2017, the Environment Agency stopped the operation of more than 5,400 illegal waste sites.
Sir James Bevan, chief executive of the Environment Agency, said: “Serious waste crime is the new narcotics – it damages the environment and harms local communities.
“In the last year, the Environment Agency has closed down over 800 illegal waste sites and brought almost 100 successful waste crime prosecutions. But there is still more to be done. This report represents an opportunity to ensure we have the right powers, resources and coordination to win this fight.”
The review builds on recent government measures to tackle waste crime, including new powers for the Environment Agency to lock the gates to problem waste sites to prevent waste illegally building up and powers to force operators to clear all the waste at problem sites.
Examples of recent prosecutions for waste crimes include arrests made earlier this year in London for fraud and money laundering offences across the country, and enforcement action taken in April 2017 after the illegal dumping of 20,000 tonnes of waste at 17 sites across the Midlands, North West and North East.
For more information see the full review.