New report shows that waste crime costs England £600 million a year

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Pathways of waste crime (Source: ESAET / ESA)

London, UK — Waste crime in England incurs losses to the legitimate waste industry and the taxpayer of £604 million (€714 million) a year, according to a new report. Supported by the ‘Right Waste Right Place’ campaign, the report uncovers that the growing cost of waste crime is now equivalent to building 34 new secondary schools or paying for 4,137 NHS hospital beds per year. It highlights that illegal waste operators blight local communities, damage the environment, harm legitimate businesses and deprive the government of tax revenue.

The report „Rethinking Waste Crime“ shows the waste sector, which adds £6.6 billion of value to the UK economy, has changed beyond all recognition in the last two decades and regulation has not kept up. A new waste management system that allows society to use waste as a resource for recycling and recovery has opened up gaps that can be exploited.

Rethinking Waste Crime found the majority of waste crime is associated with waste from businesses, not from households. It suggests most serious waste crime falls into one of six categories: illegal waste sites, inaccurately describing waste, illegal export of waste, illegal burning of waste, fly tipping and serious breaches of permit conditions.

Caused by weak regulation

The report stresses that weak regulation is a major cause of waste crime: for example, anyone can obtain a licence to carry waste by paying a small online fee, and through minimal checks; waste carriers or sites that operate under exemptions (instead of proper waste permits) are rarely inspected; and there is no way to track commercial waste from its production through to its end destination.

Suggesting there is no simple fix, Rethinking Waste Crime recommends a package of changes that will modernise England’s out of date waste management system, including tightening up regulation of areas that are barely regulated, increasing enforcement, banning serious and repeat offenders from the sector, and securing new sources of funding from criminals for the Environment Agency.

More entrenched than ever

Jacob Hayler, Executive Director at the Environmental Services Association said: “Despite additional funding for regulators and stronger enforcement powers, waste crime is more entrenched than ever. Clearly, we need a different approach which targets the underlying causes of crime in our sector and which roots out the prevailing culture which allows waste crime to flourish. This report highlights the weakness in the current regime and puts forward ambitious recommendations aimed at stopping waste crime once and for all.”

Mike Brown, Managing Director from Eunomia said: “Regulators have been under-resourced and encouraged to take a light-touch approach in order to be business friendly. Ironically, this is actually harming the interests of legitimate waste businesses while giving criminals an easy ride. The solution isn’t to abandon the progress we’ve made, but to modernise regulation to support our increasingly circular economy.”

The report „Rethinking Waste Crime“ was written by environmental consultancy Eunomia, commissioned by the Environmental Services Association Educational Trust (ESAET) and the Environmental Services Association (ESA) and launched at the House of Commons. It can be downloaded under esauk.org.

Source: Environmental Services Association