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Environment Agency clamps down on illegal waste exports

The Environment Agency has vowed to track down people involved in illegal waste export activity after officers from teams across England conducted an intelligence-gathering operation at Harwich International Port in Essex focussed on the illegal export of waste.

The aim of the operation was to stop and check HGVs carrying waste in a bid to identify any waste materials that could have been being illegally exported to Europe.

Environment Agency clamps down on illegal waste exports
Around 30 loads were stopped on the day, with paperwork checked and waste loads examined. Officers were seeking intelligence about waste that could potentially be illegal heading to the continent and assessing the supporting documents.

Field intelligence officers, port officers and members of the illegal waste shipments team were on hand to speak with drivers passing through the port, offering advice and support on transporting waste abroad legally.

The team on site made use of the Environment Agency’s Incident Command Unit, enabling them to receive emailed paperwork from waste contractors when it was found to be missing.

Twenty-nine trailers were inspected in total, and 18 were found to be carrying waste. In each instance the paperwork was examined and in nine cases there were missing or incomplete documents. These were eventually all completed with the support of Environment Agency officers and the vehicles were allowed to continue their journeys.

Commenting on the day’s findings, Chris Smith, National Intelligence Manager, whose team led the operation for the Environment Agency, said: “The sheer volume of material that we found today and prevented from being exported illegally is a big win, but our work isn’t finished.

“Today’s action sends a strong message that we will track down those involved in illegal waste activity. We intend to continue our inspections of waste at ports around all of England to ensure waste being exported is done so legally.

“The effects of exporting waste illegally is harmful to the environment and the economy. It undercuts legitimate businesses and causes harm to human health and the environment in destination countries.”

Export of waste, and the quality of material being sent abroad has taken on increased scrutiny in recent months in light of China’s National Sword campaign to reduce polluting illegal imports and the country’s recent announcement that it will be seeking a ban on the import of all scrap plastics and unsorted waste paper.

The illegal export of waste damages both the UK economy and legitimate waste industry as well as the environment in countries that ends up receiving the waste, where it is often processed at unregulated and toxic sites.

Waste crime in England costs £604 million a year in losses to the waste industry and the taxpayer – the equivalent to paying for over 4,000 NHS hospital beds a year or building 34 new secondary schools, according to the Environmental Services Association (ESA).

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