Environment Agency urges vigilance after waste crime rise

The Environment Agency is asking for landowners, businesses and members of the public to be vigilant following a reported increase in illegally dumped waste in the West Midlands.

The Environment Agency says that it has seen an increase of illegally dumped waste on public and private land in the West Midlands over the last 12 months, and urges anyone with information on suspicious activity to contact them.

Fly-tipping of waste is usually the responsibility of the local authorities, however the Environment Agency becomes involved if the waste is more than 20 tonnes or if there are links to organised crime or criminal business activity.

Lisa Pinney, Environment Agency area manager for the West Midlands, said: “It’s crucial that all businesses understand their duty of care responsibilities for the waste they produce, who they allow to transport it and ultimately where it goes.

“Too often, when these responsibilities are misunderstood or ignored, we see the impact of waste crime where waste is deliberately dumped on land with no permit. This can cause serious pollution, put communities at risk and undermines legitimate businesses that are doing the right thing. And even if the landowner has no involvement, legally they may still be responsible for that waste and that could mean a large clear up bill.”

Clarity Environmental Managing Director, David Adams, added that legitimate businesses can work together to ensure it doesn’t pay to operate outside of the law: “Waste crime costs businesses and taxpayers, and puts a blight on our countryside. But it is also seriously undermining the reputation of our industry.

“We work with a range of waste companies across the country, and have developed strict procedures to ensure we exercise due diligence when setting up our new offtake agreements.  Our extensive audits and specialist consultant advice ensure that those we choose to do business with are working within the same legal and ethical boundaries. Our procedures may sometimes mean we reject the route that leads to the biggest short-term profit, but it is important that legitimate businesses work together reducing the opportunities available for illegal operators to do business.”

Through the Government Spending Review 2015, the Environment Agency secured an additional £23m to tackle waste crime in England, up to end of March 2020. The Environment Agency said the funding is being used to target ‘priority areas’ across the country, funding additional temporary staff to target illegal waste operators and high risk sites of concern. The Agency says it is determined to make life hard for criminals with the threat of tough enforcement action, and to support legitimate business.

As part of the National Enforcement Service, the Environment Agency has established a Disruption and Prevention Team to find new approaches to stop waste crime from occurring. The team is working in partnership with law enforcement agencies, HMRC, DVLA and Companies House, and using techniques to trace vehicles and waste.

In a further bid to tackle waste crime, the government is also consulting on whether to bring illegal waste sites within the scope of landfill tax in England and Northern Ireland. The plans were announced in the Spring Budget and respondents have until 5 May 2017 to submit their views.

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