Illegal waste activity on the rise, says EA report

The Environment Agency (EA) has published a report calling on businesses to do more to reduce pollution incidents and illegal waste activity.

The EA’s annual Regulating for People, Environment and Growth (RPEG) report has revealed that incidents of serious pollution caused by waste management in 2018 have increased by 22 per cent since 2017.

An image of illegally dumped waste

16 of these incidents occurred at landfill sites, more than double the number in 2017.

As well as the rise in incidents caused by waste management, incidents of serious pollution caused by illegal waste activity also increased, rising to 81 compared to 51 in 2017.

In total, the EA dealt with 533 serious pollution incidents, 27 per cent more than in 2017.

The RPEG report highlighted that the majority of EA regulated businesses are committed to environmental protection, with 92 per cent of operators demonstrating good compliance with their environmental permits.

Of all the waste produced by permitted sites, a record 72 per cent was recovered in 2018 compared to 59 per cent a decade ago.

However, illegal activity remains a key concern for the waste industry. Although the EA closed more illegal waste sites this year – 912 compared to 812 last year – it is still discovering new sites at the same rate. This year, the EA found 896 new illegal waste sites, five per cent more than the previous year.

The EA has reportedly prevented the illegal export of 12,690 tonnes of unsuitable waste, saving the UK economy an estimated £1.1 million.

Whilst last year’s report revealed record fines for environmental offences totalling £25.5 million, 2018’s prosecutions resulted in courts fining individuals and businesses £2.8 million. As a result of the EA’s enforcement actions, environmental groups, such as wildlife trusts or river trusts, received £2.1 million.

Gillian Pratt, Deputy Director at the EA, said: “Our regulation is supporting a healthier environment and safer communities. The majority of businesses we regulate are well run.

“But all businesses must make improvements to ensure their operations help protect the environment and local communities.

“Waste crime continues to blight communities, cause environmental harm, and undercut legitimate business. Businesses need to do more to manage their risks and reduce pollution incidents.”

Measures to tackle waste crime have been included in the recently tabled Environment Bill and the government has granted £1 million of funding to Anthesis and Topolytics to develop prototypes of a smart waste tracking system to crack down on illegal movements of waste.

You can view the Regulating for People, the Environment and Growth (RPEG) report in full on the Environment Agency website

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