Industry group calls for tougher regulation to prevent waste crime

Industry group calls for tougher regulation to prevent waste crimeA group made up of industry bodies from the waste and resources sector has set out its recommendations for the government to tighten regulations on the transport, buying, selling and disposal of waste.

The group includes representatives from three trade and professional organisations: the Environmental Services Association (ESA), the Chartered Institute of Wastes Management (CIWM) and the United Resource Operators Consortium (UROC), which represents skip hire and waste transfer companies.

Last year, the group published a report titled ‘Rethinking Waste Crime’, which examined the effects of illegal waste activities and suggested that weak regulation was responsible for allowing the majority of crime to occur.

The report identified serious issues with the current regime for waste carriers, brokers and dealers (CBDs) leading to significant ‘leakage’ in the system, allowing waste materials to escape regulation. The regime as it stands requires people or businesses involved in the transport, buying, selling and disposal of waste – or if they arrange for someone else to do so – to register on an Environment Agency database of CBDs.

ESA’s Executive Director Jacob Hayler explained that the problems with the current system are “largely due to low barriers to entry and loose or unenforceable operating standards and regulatory requirements.” Anyone can obtain a licence to carry waste by simply paying a small fee to register, with minimal checks – or no fee at all, if they are only moving waste they have produced themselves – while CBDs operating under exemptions that don’t require them to obtain a full permit are rarely inspected.

“We are calling for the government to commit to implement a series of measures,” Hayler stated, “preferably within the framework of the forthcoming Resources and Waste Strategy, to improve the regulatory regime.”

Dr Colin Church, CIWM’s current CEO, who recently announced he will be stepping down in September, said: “Waste that is managed badly or illegally, and deposited in the wrong place, causes misery for local communities, can damage health and local environments and costs governments, local authorities, land owners and taxpayers millions of pounds in lost revenue and clean-up costs. It is a growing problem and while additional resources have been made available by the government in recent years to tackle waste crime, we are a long way from turning the tide.”

Industry group calls for tougher regulation to prevent waste crime
"Waste that is managed badly or illegally, and deposited in the wrong place, causes misery for local communities": CIWM's Colin Church
The government has been beginning to take action on waste crime, with £30 million promised to tackle the problem and new powers in place since March for Environment Agency officers to take firmer action against both illegal and ‘problem’ waste sites.

In June, Environment Secretary Michael Gove launched a consultation, the results of which will be used to inform a new strategic approach to waste crime to be set out in the highly-anticipated Resources and Waste Strategy. 

The ESA, CIWM and UROC would like to see the collective term CBD split up, with different regulatory requirements applying separately to carriers, brokers and dealers. There would also be a more detailed, tiered approach to each, dependent on the exact scale and nature of their operations.

Proposals include robust identity checks, permits that may be suspended or revoked, an application fee to enable compliance monitoring, and a requirement for upper tier carriers to demonstrate operational competence on an ongoing basis, as well as to provide evidence of the end destination of the waste they are handling.

The group has also made a number of more general recommendations which they hope will be taken into account in the development of the government’s updated waste strategy:

  • Increasing the requirements and standards for becoming a CBD. This will enable greater confidence in the credibility of the CBD regime and will reduce opportunities for waste criminals to exploit the current weaknesses in the system.
  • Strengthening the links in the relationship between the producer and the carrier, and between the carrier (and any broker) and recovery or disposal site.
  • Optimising the role of the producer to retain their obligation and responsibility while also placing more onus on CBDs as waste professionals.
  • Ensuring CBDs are competent, that they understand their responsibilities and the role they need to play in securing legal compliance and preventing waste crime.

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