Judy Proctor, The Environment Agency’s deputy director waste regulation (assigned), offers some reflections on waste crime and looks ahead to the challenges to be faced in 2018, the wider waste strategy and working closer with you to beat the criminals
I enjoyed my Christmas break, taking some time off and being with my family. It’s always a time of reflection too – looking back over 2017 and forward for this year. This isn’t a luxury, but an essential part of my job… and I have a lot to reflect on.
When I joined our Waste Regulation team in October, I was already strongly aware of the problems that waste crime was causing us. I also understand the impact it has on the environment and people’s lives, and how it undermines the waste sector.
One of the things I like about taking on a new job is working with colleagues and getting to grips with the challenges. Waste crime is definitely one of those and the scale of the problem is huge. But none of my team is put off by this and there’s a real buzz around the opportunities we have for this year.
But first, let me go back to my reflections on our success for 2017. We closed down around three illegal waste sites every day.; that’s no easy task. Our detection levels are improving all the time, so we are able to close down sites quicker; over 45 percent are closed within 90 days. Critical to this is how we collect and use our intelligence. This is particularly important when faced with the threat of organised crime.
Our investigations are getting more complex, but we had some major prosecutions. The Proceeds of Crime continues to be a major tool in our armoury. One criminal was forced to sell his home to pay for clearing a site he had illegally tipped on. Another man was handed a £2m confiscation order after running an illegal waste business.
We need to keep an eye on fly-tipping and illegal dumping, which seems to be on the increase. One new tool we have is the power to seize vehicles, which we’ve used several times already. It has an immediate effect – criminals simply can’t operate when we take their vehicles away.
Prevent & Disrupt
Prevention and disruption will continue to play a major part in our approach to reducing crime. But just as important is how we work with others. It’s great to be working with the ESA and CIWM on the Tackling Waste Crime Working Group. With this group we will develop proposals to address the issues identified in the ESA’s report, “Rethinking Waste Crime”, published in 2017.
One of the major developments that happened towards the end of last year was an additional £30m to spend on tackling crime. Just before Christmas, our enforcement community met to discuss how we will spend this money over the next four years. This will include increasing the number of specialists we need to deal with the ever more complex world of waste crime. We already have a comprehensive waste and enforcement workforce strategy that will ensure we have the right skills and capabilities over the next few years.
I’m really pleased to see landfill tax being extended to all illegal deposits of waste, which includes illegal dumping and illegal waste sites. This is absolutely the right thing to do. We already have a really great relationship with HMRC on landfill tax, so I know this change is going to be a major development.
Abandoned waste is a major risk, which we are helping to manage. Landowners need to be vigilant, and we will do all we can to prevent this happening in the first place. Where we can, we will use our enforcement powers and work with our partners to clear the high risk sites. We’ve also put forward proposals on new financial provision for permitted sites, so it’s important the waste industry share its views on how waste is managed when things go wrong.
I look forward to updating you over the next 12 months on how these developments reduce waste crime. I also want to talk more about the wider waste strategy, particularly around resource efficiency. This is another priority for us. If we can work together to reduce waste and add value to waste that is produced, there is less incentive for criminals to take advantage.