Mat Crocker – One of the Good Guys

Mat-Crocker-EAWhen it comes to the issue of waste crime, who better to offer a view than Mat Crocker, the Environment Agency’s deputy director of illegals and waste? He’s speaking at the upcoming Resourcing The Future 2015 conference: here’s what he told us ahead of the event.

Waste crime can cause serious pollution to the environment, put communities at risk and undermine legitimate business. It is a huge problem and, unless you are a criminal, it’s in no-one’s interests that it exists.

As an effective and efficient regulator we’ve focused our efforts on fixing the problem, targeting illegal operators and doing what we can to minimize the damage that is caused.

We have a specialist crime unit which uses intelligence to track and prosecute organised crime gangs involved in illegal waste activity and we’re using our full range of enforcement powers to stop illegal sites from operating. We have been very successful, shutting down hundreds of illegal sites every year.

We are also developing stronger links with colleagues at HMRC, particularly around the description of waste. Misdescribing waste in a deliberate attempt to evade landfill tax is what drives a lot of waste crime. HMRC are interested in those that are trying to evade tax, we’re interested in the environmental impact of illegal sites, so it makes sense to work together. People like Judith Kelly, the HMRC’s deputy director, environmental taxes team, have been instrumental in that and it’s great to see that she is also part of the conference debate.

We are also starting to realise that along with tackling the problem, we need to stop the problem from occurring in the first place. This is where partnership working across the public sector could make a huge difference.

If we could stop waste ending up on illegal and poorly performing sites in the first place then we would stop communities suffering from the noise, pollution and disruption these sites can cause, stop legitimate businesses being undercut by cowboy operators and criminals and stop having to spend millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money prosecuting offenders, cleaning up abandoned sites, tackling waste fires and dealing with the environmental impact.

This is money that none of us can afford to spend. Now, more than ever, need to do things in a radically different way if we want to stop this problem.

Working Together Gets Results

We recently undertook some research with local authorities to get a better understanding of how we can work together to ensure that waste is handled correctly. The results have been really interesting. The commitment of local authority officers to do the right thing shines through loud and clear – but they have told us we could make it easier for them by explaining when duty of care starts and stops, by enabling them to identify poor operators more easily and by working more closely together, particularly when contracts are being awarded.

We are acting on this research and will be launching an information campaign in September to help meet the needs that our research has identified.

We are also funding a duty of care campaign targeted at producers that is being led by CIWM and the ESA. This will remind waste producers of their obligation to ensure their waste is being handled correctly and legally under duty of care along with reminding them of the damage that’s done if their waste is not disposed of properly.

Do we all do everything we can to comply with our duty of care? That’s the big question for me. There are some excellent examples out there, and there are some “could do betters”. If everyone did the right thing, waste crime would shrink overnight, that’s the truth of it. I know we can do better, because we still have a waste crime problem. If everyone involved in waste asked the right questions, went one step further, criminals would find it harder to get their hands on the waste in the first place.

This conference is really important. Waste is such a fast paced industry, which makes it brilliant but really challenging to get on the front foot. Because of that, getting people together to discuss where it’s at, what the challenges are, and to think about what the collective solutions might be, is all for the greater good. This conference plays a role in identifying those issues and connecting people to help find solutions. I always leave with new ideas and thoughts. The day the resource industry stops changing is the day the conference won’t be as valuable, but that’s a really, really, long way off.

For the full programme, or to book one of the few remaining places at the Resourcing The Future 2015 conference, click here

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