Waste crime in England is costing the legitimate waste industry and the taxpayer more than £600m a year, equivalent to building 34 new secondary schools or paying for 4,137 NHS hospital beds per year, according to a new report commissioned by the Environmental Services Association Educational Trust (ESAET) and the Environmental Services Association, published yesterday (2 May).
Supported by the “Right Waste Right Place” campaign, and written by environmental consultancy Eunomia, the report – “Rethinking Waste Crime” (click here to view the report) – reveals just how big an issue waste crime has become.
The research 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.
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.
Modernise The System
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there is no simple fix: “Rethinking Waste Crime” recommends a package of changes that will modernise England’s out of date waste management system, including tightening up regulation of areas that are barely regulated, increasing enforcement, banning serious and repeat offenders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.
The report suggests the following changes are made to waste regulation:
- Closing the gaps in regulation
- Reducing exemptions for waste sites
- Setting new standards to qualify as a waste carrier, broker and dealer
- Stronger enforcement of failures in Duty of Care right through the waste chain
- Improving enforcement efforts by introducing a new inspection regime for sites
- Developing an electronic waste transfer note system for better traceability
- Developing enforcement funding from within the waste system
- Improving cross-regulatory cooperation and raising awareness
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.”
“This is a timely and useful report from ESA that reinforces the serious impact waste crime has on has on society as a whole, especially the legitimate and professional waste management sector, communities and the local environment, and in terms of tax evasion,” says CIWM chief executive Dr Colin Church.
“It rightly questions not just the level of enforcement of the current regulatory regime and the resources available to meet this growing problem, but also the effectiveness of the regime itself. Criminal activity proliferates where the risk of being caught is low compared to the financial reward and this report suggests it is time to reassess how our sector is regulated and what changes are needed to deter waste criminals in the future.”
You can view the report here