London, UK – The UK Environment Agency has stopped illegal waste activity at 871 sites in 2014/15. The main activities being carried out at illegal sites included storing waste – 24 per cent of sites / 213 sites -, disposal activities (for example burning, spreading or landfilling) – 32 per cent of sites / 277 sites – and treating waste (for example composting or recycling activities) – 43 per cent of sites / 378 sites -.
The top 3 types of waste found at illegal sites were household and commercial waste, construction and demolition waste and end-of-life vehicles. These waste types made up two-thirds of the waste types found on sites where illegal activity was stopped. In 2014/15, the Environment Agency dealt with 151 large, serious and organised illegal dumping of waste incidents, the majority of which involved household and commercial waste or construction, demolition and excavation waste.
The Agency is delivering a comprehensive joint plan of action which was agreed with Defra on how to continue to tackle waste crime, working with the waste industry and other waste professionals so as to divert waste to legitimate outlets. The Agency`s common aim is to focus actions around speedy and tough enforcement action, intelligence sharing, making the polluter pay and making better use of regulatory controls.
Closure rates exceeding 70 per cent
One of the Agency`s targets is to close 45 per cent of newly discovered illegal waste sites within 90 days. Over 2014/15 in some parts of the country the EA has greatly exceeded this with closure rates exceeding 70 per cent. However on average the EA achieved a 44 per cent closure rate, compared to 40 per cent previously.
Some illegal waste sites were classified as high risk. These are sites which pose the most significant threat to the environment, human health or may be connected to organised crime. The number of such sites that were active in 2014/15 was 282, compared with 272 in 2013/14 and 353 in 2012/13. Overall numbers reached a high point in 2012/13 as a result of intelligence work under the illegal waste sites taskforce and then fell significantly as the Agency moved into the enforcement phase of the project. The numbers continued to decline across most of England during 2014/15 except in the Southeast which alone represented 40 per cent of the total number. The Agency is investigating this.
Over £14 million invested
Waste crime diverts up to £1 billion (€1,36 b) from legitimate business and HM Treasury ministry each year. Between April 2014 and March 2015 the UK Environment Agency spent over £14 million on stopping waste illegal waste activity, with an estimated return of £80 million.The Environmental Services Association Education Trust estimates nearly £160 million per year is lost due to waste operators incorrectly describing their waste in order to pay the lower rate of landfill tax.
Waste crime can be associated with organised criminal gangs, who may also be engaged in other forms of crime. Six people were arrested during dawn raids in March 2015 following a nationwide Environment Agency probe into the illegal dumping of potentially hazardous waste. Four people were arrested for suspected waste offences and two for suspected human trafficking.
The Environment Agency:
- brought 81 prosecutions against companies for environmental offences in 2014, 31 per cent fewer than in 2013 (118 prosecutions of companies). 37 of these were waste companies compared to 45 in 2013. Fines imposed as a result of our prosecution of companies involved in waste activities totalled just over £383,000 in 2014. This represented 12 per cent of the total fines imposed for company prosecutions in 2014. Not all companies involved in waste-related offences are within the waste industry: Total fines for waste offences exceeded £500,000 (16 per cent of total fines).
- brought 152 prosecutions against businesses and individuals for illegal waste activities in 2014, with fines totalling £660,000.
- issued over 245 enforcement notices to companies involved in waste activities in 2014. Companies in the non-hazardous waste treatment sector received 43 per cent of all enforcement notices issued in 2014. 64 per cent of companies receiving more than one caution or enforcement notice were involved in waste activities.
- issued 2 stop notices in 2014, compared to 4 in 2013. These were used to stop dumping, or incorrect treatment or disposal of waste.
- accepted 43 enforcement undertakings from businesses during 2014. Most enforcement undertakings (37 of 43) were related to packaging waste offences, resulting in contributions of £533,000 to environmental charities, organisations or projects.
Source: UK Environment Agency