EA presses for waste crime vigilance during pandemic

There is no “excuse” for waste crime during the pandemic the illegal waste sites team from the Environment Agency (EA) warned today (12 June) urging the public and operators to be “extra vigilant” of illicit activities.

Image of Bulkington waste site
Bulkington Waste Site

The EA has called on land and property owners to keep alert to the activities of waste criminals seeking to target land and property, who may offer cash in exchange for storing the waste or make unfulfilled promises to return and remove their waste.

It pressed owners to be “extra vigilant” and “secure” their empty land and property to protect themselves from becoming victims of waste crime. If waste is dumped without the relevant permissions on property/landowners sites the agency cautions that they themselves could unwittingly be “liable to prosecution and costs to remove the waste.”

A spokesperson for the illegal waste sites team highlighted that “everyone has a part to play to help solve the waste crime problem and make sure waste is managed responsibly” and that enforcement would not slacken during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The spokesperson added: “If you pass your waste to someone else to take away for you, you must first check they are registered with the EA so it doesn’t end up in the hands of operators who break the law.

“Businesses and householders should carry out checks to ensure that they are using legitimate companies to deal with their waste. You can check if a waste carrier is genuine by visiting the EA’s public register.

The EA has been busy dealing with waste crime incidents in recent weeks despite the pandemic. On 3 June, the EA illegal waste sites team visited a site in the Bulkington area of North Warwickshire alongside the Police Rural Crime team.

They found the land was being filled with general waste materials and topped off with soil despite the land not being under permit to receive waste materials of any kind.

At the time of their attendance, officers witnessed two articulated lorries at the site, which were in the process of being unloaded. Accordingly, the officers  instructed the drivers to refill the lorries with the waste they had deposited and move off the site. They also repatriated an excavator to its rightful owner.

During the visit, police officers also identified and seized a previously stolen piece of plant machinery. An investigation into the illegal waste activity is now under way.

Police also identified an illegal waste site in Lincolnshire on 30 April and arrested two people following reports of suspicious activity. The site on Fen Lane, Long Bennington, was accepting lorry-loads of waste, including plastics, commercial waste and household furniture, before being burnt illegally on the site with fumes from the smoke posing health risks to the local people.

Since lockdown began, fires have been reported in Telford, Lancashire and Cumbria, with pleas issued from fire officers and councils to residents setting their waste alight amidst the closure of Household Waste and Recycling Centres (HWRCs).

Fly-tipping also saw a surge at the end of April. The Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport (ADEPT) survey for the week commencing 20 April reports that 58 per cent of councils have seen greater than usual tonnages of collected fly-tipped waste in their localities. Responding to the rise of cases of fly-tipping Biffa released an app to record incidents of fly-tipping and operate a clearance service during the Covid-19 lockdown.

To address the difficulties for waste operators during the Covid-19 pandemic, the EA in April and May released nine Covid-19 regulatory position statements. These aim to help businesses minimise risks to the environment and human health where, for reasons beyond their control, compliance with certain regulatory requirements may not be possible due to coronavirus.

The nine RPS for waste (excluding radioactive waste) are:

Anyone who suspects a company is operating illegally can call the Environment Agency 24/7 on 0800 80 70 60 or report it anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

You can find more information on waste crime on the EA’s website.