Organised waste crime in Northern Ireland (NI) is “widespread” in the industry according to an independent report that was commissioned after 516,000 tonnes of illegally dumped waste in Mobuoy near Derry was uncovered.
The Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) discovered an estimated total of 516,000 tonnes of macerated waste dumped illegal waste, which was deposited in an area stretching to almost 1.4km in and around a licensed materials recycling facility (MRF).
It is not known who deposited this waste; however, this was a “sophisticated operation”, according to the report, which had been carried out over a number of years. A criminal investigation (Operation Sycamore) is ongoing and two people have been arrested and questioned.
The discovery led to the commissioning of the report commissioned by previous environment minister Alex Attwood in June this year, in which recommendations for combatting waste crime have been outlined by ex-Welsh Environment Agency director Chris Mills.
CIWM – “The Mills report suggests that criminality is ‘widespread’ in this industry. CIWM does not believe that is the case but, equally, no level of criminality is acceptable and the whole industry must work together to eliminate it”
According to the report, there are many external factors that facilitate criminals entering the waste industry and using it to carry out illegal activities such as the dumping of waste at Mobuoy.
It found the fit and proper person test is “not sufficiently robust to screen out criminals” and allowed them the opportunity to obtain a licence or permit to run a waste facility.
It also suggested there are deficiencies in the Waste Carrier Registration System, and in the inability of the regulator to track waste flows with any accuracy. This, according to the report, makes it easy to move waste around, including in and out of licensed facilities and to conceal where the waste finally ends up.
“If illegal dumping is discovered and the perpetrators caught, the current sentencing regime provides very little deterrent and even if the Proceeds of Crime Act can be used to increase the financial penalties, vast profits can still be made,” the report states.
It also goes on to state that the lack of any “effective sanction” to make the polluter pay means that the State is likely to carry the cost of remediation or removal work.
“A number of lessons can be learnt from what has happened at Mobuoy,” it states.
The report suggests that criminality is “widespread in the waste industry in Northern Ireland with at least some involvement by organised crime”.
It also states that this is not unique to Northern Ireland and waste crime, including the use of legal sites to cover illegal activity, is happening across the UK and Ireland.
It says that the regulatory regime for waste has become very “complicated” and much of it is “not working as intended”.
It suggests that the Regulatory Service in the NIEA needs to change in order to become more integrated and adaptive.
“The Mills report suggests that criminality is ‘widespread’ in this industry. CIWM does not believe that is the case but, equally, no level of criminality is acceptable and the whole industry must work together to eliminate it. The recommendations in the report are helpful and with the help of DOENI and NIEA there is much that the responsible industry can do to make it much harder for criminals to get into or prosper in our sector.”
- to introduce or strengthen “fit and proper persons” tests for the award or maintenance of licences and permits to operate as waste carriers or waste management facilities. This could include a proof of fitness to operate and proof and maintenance of “technical competence” – a scheme that has been working in England and Wales for some years
- increasing the drive towards professionalism – we want customers of this industry to check that they are doing business with reputable waste managers including their status as “Chartered Waste Managers”
- improving access to and uptake of training and development in Northern Ireland Waste Managers – to help them prove professionalism and fitness to operate,
- to see the delivery of an appropriate level of new strategic waste infrastructure which can be more easily regulated and monitored
- improvements to waste monitoring through widespread adoption of the new “edoc” waste tracking system early in the New Year. This has been developed across the UK with Government’s, industry and regulators’ support and will be free to all users. CIWM also applauds the recent strengthening of the “Duty of Care” Regulations in Northern Ireland to require waste producing businesses to agree with their waste contractors where their waste will be taken to, and we are advocating uptake of this improvement elsewhere in the UK
- closer working between the regulators and compliant, responsible waste management businesses to identify and respond to illegal activity in our sector,
- support for Government regulators and courts throughout the UK to make sure that the punishment fits the crime including appropriately tough sentencing and recovery of the proceeds of crime
- exploring other powers, skills or resources needed by the regulators, Government and local government to deter, detect and respond to waste crime at all levels from low-level fly-tipping through to full-scale illegal waste facility operation.
CIWM will commit to working with Government, regulators, local government and others to make this happen. Wastes must be managed safely and responsibly to protect people and the environment. Furthermore, wastes need to be managed as resources to be kept working or to recover value from them. Neither of these can be done unless criminals are cut out of the sector.
For the report CLICK HERE