EA ‘day of action’ targets waste crime

The Environment Agency (EA) yesterday (27 March) held a nationwide ‘day of action’ as part of a crackdown on illegal waste sites, with over 100 officers visiting 60 sites in an attempt to ‘disrupt illegal dealings and check if sites posed a risk to surrounding communities’.

The actions were undertaken by the EA’s Illegal Waste Site Taskforce, and saw the agency carrying out roadside stop and search procedures across the country in conjunction with local police, Vehicle and Operator Services Agency, the British Transport Police, local authorities, HM Revenue and Customs and Trading Standards.

In addition, the EA stated that it had carried out the following actions:

  • in the North West, aerial reconnaissance was used to check for activity at suspected illegal sites;
  • in the North East, metal scrap yards where illegal dismantling of vehicles was suspected were visited by police;
  • in the South of England, investigators targeted major development and construction projects following construction waste being identified as the biggest illegal waste problem (in 2011 it made up 24 per cent of serious illegal dumping incidents);
  • in the South West, officers made surprise visits to sites suspected as being in the illegal waste chain;
  • in the South East, ‘conveyor belt’ style road-side checks took place on approaches to hot-spot industrial estates;
  • forensic technique SmartWater was used to mark waste to prove whether waste ends up dumped or exported and support future EA prosecutions –  SmartWater is a liquid that contains a code that can be read under ultraviolet light, helping the police determine where it came from.

The EA claims that in 2012 it forced 1,135 illegal waste sites to cease operations, stating that: ‘Illegal sites can cause serious pollution incidents, bad smells, chemical spills, blight on the landscape, and misery for surrounding communities.’

Speaking of the recent ‘day of action’, Mat Crocker, Head of Waste and Illegals at the EA, said: “Illegal waste sites undercut legitimate business, can cause severe damage to the environment and misery for local residents. We are determined to make life hard for criminals. Our day of action should send a clear message to legitimate business that we are supporting them by and disrupting and stopping the criminal element…

“[E]veryone can play their part by reporting waste crime to us or Crimestoppers.”

Illegal metal dealers also targeted

The action comes after police forces across the South West launched a similar ‘day of action’ against illegal metal dealers, which saw 14 arrests, as well as numerous confiscations and penalty notices being issued.

Speaking at the time, Superintendent Mark Saunders from Avon and Somerset Police stated: “We will continue to work with our police colleagues, partner agencies and commercial industries to take an intrusive approach in dealing with the thieves and handlers who make money at a cost to each and every tax payer.

"Last week's day of action is just one of a range of ongoing overt and covert tactics to prevent and detect this and other related crime and we will be relentless in tackling metal theft."

View images from yesterday's EA ‘day of action’ on illegal waste sites.