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, is one of the recommendations put forward by an independent review ordered by Environment Secretary Michael Gove.
The review also concluded rogue waste crime operators should be slapped with new fines if they mislabel their waste to dodge tax rules, and that compulsory electronic tracking of waste could help clamp-down on illegal movements of waste at home and abroad.
It has also been recommended that there should be financial penalties for producers if their waste is found to be deposited illegally and thata national database of registered waste brokers should be established to make it harder for “unscrupulous operators” to do businesses.
The recommendations come from a major independent review ordered in June. It looked at the government’s approach to tackling waste crime, which cost the English economy more than £600 million in 2015. The recommendations of the review will now be considered and responded to in Defra’s forthcoming Resources and Waste Strategy.
The review found that the government should give the criminals responsible greater cause to fear the consequences of their actions.
Welcoming the findings, Environment Secretary Michael 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.
Environment Secretary Michael Gove – “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”
“I welcome today’s recommendations. 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.”
Lizzie Noel who chaired the review said: “In this report, we set out how we can modernise the structures, capabilities and powers to manage and reduce the problem of organised waste crime now and in the future.
“Our intention must be to give the criminals responsible real cause to fear the consequences of their actions. Today that is not the case.
“I would like to record my thanks to my review team, my advisory board, colleagues at Defra and the Environment Agency.”
Between 2011 and 2017, the Environment Agency stopped the operation of 5,411 illegal waste sites.
Risk To National Infrastructure
While an average of two illegal waste sites are shut down every day, they continue to create severe problems for local communities and business, particularly in rural areas, as well as posing a risk to key national infrastructure.
Since 2014, the Environment Agency has been given an extra £60million by the government towards enforcement work to tackle waste crime. The extra investment has shown a return of about £5 for every £1 extra spent.
Sir James Bevan, Chief Executive of the Environment Agency, said: “I welcome this review. Serious waste crime is the new narcotics – it damages the environment and harms local communities.
“The review rightly recognises the dedication of Environment Agency officers who work tirelessly to bring the criminals to justice. 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 recommendations of the review will now inform a strategic approach to waste crime, which will be published in the government’s forthcoming Resources and Waste Strategy later this year.
CIWM’s head of policy and communications Pat Jennings said: “These recommendations are in line with repeated calls from CIWM in recent years for adequate resourcing of the regulators, a more multi-disciplinary approach to maximise intelligence sharing, and a stronger regulatory regime for waste carriers, brokers, and dealers (CBD) and Duty of Care.
“Earlier this year, a cross-sector expert group – including CIWM, ESA and UROC – submitted proposals to the Government on reform of the CBD regime and we are pleased to see the commitment to reform in the report.
“CIWM has also advocated the wider roll out of some form of electronic duty of care, both as a potential tool in fighting waste crime and to provide the data on material flows needed to underpin progress towards more circular economic models.
“The proposal for a fundamental review on the funding model for the regulation and enforcement is also critical to ensure that, going forward, regulators have the resources to deal with this growing threat. We look forward to further detail on this in the forthcoming Resources & Waste Strategy for England.”