Extended waste crime powers for Wales
New waste crime powers have been approved by the National Assembly for Wales to prevent access to problem waste sites and force operators to remove illegally-dumped waste.
First announced by Resources Minister Therese Coffey in January, the Waste Enforcement Regulations 2018 cover both England and Wales, and will enable enforcement officers to block entry to ‘problem’ sites, not just illegal ones, and prevent more waste entering, a measure 90 per cent of respondents to a 2015 consultation were in favour of.
As well as issuing a ‘restriction notice’ to prohibit access to a site for up to 72 hours, the regulatory bodies in England and Wales, the Environment Agency (EA) and Natural Resources Wales (NRW) respectively, will be able to apply to the courts for a longer ‘restriction order’ which could block access for up to six months. These powers will come into force by the beginning of April.
In addition, it will now be possible for regulators to force operators to remove waste which is being unlawfully kept or disposed of, and to take action to eliminate or reduce the environmental consequences of that waste.
Illegal and sub-standard waste sites result in losses to the Welsh economy of up to £32 million a year, and it has been estimated that there are currently around 600 illegal sites across England, Wales and Northern Ireland (as of September 2017).
Commenting on the announcement, Hannah Blythyn, Welsh Minister for Environment, said: “We have worked with Natural Resources Wales to identify what more can be done to prevent problematic and abandoned waste sites and I have listened to the views of industry.
“These new powers to take action against illegal waste operators will create a level playing field and help ensure operators who comply with the rules do not lose out to those who undermine and undercut the law-abiding majority.”
Executive Director for Evidence, Policy and Permitting at NRW, Ceri Davies, said the powers would prove “an invaluable weapon” against waste crime, adding: “Unscrupulous operators pose a threat to the environment, the health and wellbeing of the communities in which they operate and undermine the Welsh economy.”
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is conducting an ongoing public consultation on further proposals to tackle crime and poor performance in the waste sector in England and Wales, which will conclude on 26 March. Proposals being considered include reforms to the waste exemptions regime such as a requirement for low-risk waste operations to obtain permits, and fines for those whose waste ends up being dumped illegally or fly-tipped. The latter is a continually growing problem in the UK: recorded fly-tipping incidents rose in Wales by 6.5 per cent from 2015/16 to 2016/17, and England saw a seven per cent rise over the same period.
Defra is also hoping to gauge opinion on the best ways to improve public awareness of the householder Duty of Care obligation, which requires all citizens to ensure that those taking away their waste are registered to do so.
Anyone wishing to contribute to the consultation, which closes on 26 March 2018, can do so on the Defra website.