Documents to download

The Government’s Resources and Waste strategy for England defines waste crime as anything that intentionally breaks the law relating to the handling and disposal of waste. Waste crime activities include illegal exports of waste, fly tipping, illegal burning of waste, illegal operation of waste sites, non-compliance with the waste duty of care, misdescribing waste and falsifying records.

The scale of the problem of waste crime

The true scale of waste crime is, by its nature, difficult to fully quantify. Those participating in illegal activities are unregulated and actively seek to evade detection. In October 2021 the Environment Agency (EA), in its report National waste crime survey report 2021 – findings and analysis, estimated that 18% of all waste is illegally managed, equating to approximately 34Mt (megatonnes). This is the equivalent of enough waste to fill Wembley Stadium 30 times.

The impact of waste crime

The impacts of waste crime are widespread, with adverse effects on individuals, businesses, public services, the environment and the economy. For example, illegal waste sites can pollute the environment through the release of noise, dust, surface or groundwater contamination or through unauthorised fires and burning. These sites do not necessarily treat the waste in compliance with environmental best practice. They divert waste from legitimate businesses, reducing their potential income streams, viability and competitive advantage. The cost of remediation of fly tipped waste falls to public services and/or private landowners. For the public sector, tax revenue is lost if the waste would otherwise have been sent to landfill.

The Environment Agency’s report stated that waste crime costs the economy in England an estimated £1 billion per year. This represents a 55% increase since its last estimate made in 2015 of £604 million per year.

Waste crime during the pandemic

The Environment Agency’s report noted a perception, by those who responded to the National Waste Crime Survey 2021, that waste crime had increased during the pandemic. The EA stated however, that this was in contrast to its own data on verified reports that showed that at the end of March 2021, the number of active illegal waste sites was the lowest it had ever recorded. In 2020/21 the Environment Agency stopped illegal activity at 722 sites, contributing to a 14% reduction in known illegal sites from the previous year.

The Environment Agency publishes a Corporate Scorecard for each quarter. In the latest scorecard, published in December 2021 for Q2 (2021 to 2022 quarter (Q) 2 starts 1 July 2021 and ends 30 September 2021), the EA highlighted that  the number of recorded high risk illegal waste sites in England rose for the first time in over a year, by 24 to a total of 479.

Future measures to tackle waste crime

Over recent years the Government has put forward a number of policy and legislative measures aimed to tackle waste crime. An example of this is the establishment of the Joint Unit for Waste Crime (JUWC). The JUWC is comprised of eight partners: the Environment Agency (EA), Natural Resources Wales, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, the Northern Ireland Environment Agency, the police, the National Crime Agency, HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) and the British Transport Police. JUWC can conduct site inspections, make arrests and prosecutions and, upon conviction, push for heavy fines and custodial sentences.

In January 2022 two new consultations were published with further proposals to address the waste crime issues:

Documents to download

Related posts