New fines proposed for householders to cut waste crime
The government has set out its intentions to introduce fines for breaches of the household waste duty of care – as a way to stop waste getting into the hands of unauthorised carriers, who may then resort to fly-tipping.
The proposal comes as part of the government response to its consultation, ‘Proposals to tackle crime and poor performance in the waste sector and introduce a new fixed penalty for the waste duty of care’, published today (26 November).
Local authorities spent £50 million to clear illegally dumped waste in 2015/16, with waste crime as a whole costing the waste industry approximately £600 million per year. Greater Manchester sees 144 fly-tipping incidents every day, whilst London has been labelled the fly-tipping capital of the UK, with £557,444 spent per 33 local authorities every year to assist clearing up their waste.
As Susan Hall, London Assembly Member and a member of the Greater London Authority Conservatives group, wrote in her report Cleaning up London, this money ‘could be spent on other priorities such as children’s services and adult social care, where demand for support is growing.’
What steps have been taken on waste crime so far?
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has been proactive over the past few years in tackling the growing issue of waste crime.
For instance, a separate ongoing review into ‘serious and organised crime in the waste sector’ seeks to build on the new powers handed to Environment Agency (EA) officials in April, which enabled officers to wear body cameras to record incidents of abuse, lock up illegal sites and block access to ‘problems sites’ to prevent further dumping of waste.
The average fines imposed by the EA increased six-fold after the new powers came into play, increasing from £23,731 for a single company in 2013/14 to £147,575 in 2017/18. A record £25.5 million in fines were handed out in total in 2017/18, whilst the agency also closed 812 illegal waste sites during the same year.
As a result of the review into serious and organised crime, the government this month called for Fixed Penalty Notices for waste operators who mislabel their waste to avoid tax rules.
The government response released today announces plans to implement another set of fines following public feedback. 88 per cent of respondents to the consultation agreed that a fixed penalty notice (FPN) for breaches of the household waste duty of care, ranging from £150 to £400, would help reduce fly-tipping by cutting the flow of waste to illegal operators.
It is also suggested that ensuring all operators have a management system in place will help to raise operational standards and deliver a much-needed step change in waste sector performance; 96 per cent of respondents agreed with this proposal. Additional changes to waste exemptions to prevent them being used to hide waste crime are also under consideration.
Will FPNs deter ‘real criminals’?
The Environmental Services Association (ESA), which represents UK waste management companies, has welcomed the government’s response to ‘proposals to tackle crime and poor performance in the waste sector’, although it did express some concerns that the proposals did not go far enough.
ESA’s Head of Regulation, Sam Corp, said: “It is encouraging to see the government’s continuing commitment to tackling crime and poor performance in the waste sector, and this response points to a number of initial plans which should start the process of tightening up operator and technical competence at permitted facilities and should help to discourage operators who do not have the resources, the experience or the intention to operate within the law.
“Whilst we would have liked to have seen more detail on some key areas, such as reform to the carriers, brokers, dealers and exemption regimes, perhaps it is not surprising that this detail has yet to emerge at a time when Brexit-related matters seem to be demanding so much of Civil servants’ time.
“The proposal to introduce fixed penalty notices to householders who have failed in their duty of care is a significant measure, which should have a real impact by raising awareness of this important responsibility amongst householders.
However, Corp expressed concerns about whether the fixed penalty notice would deter ‘real’ criminals, saying that “without a complete overhaul of the carriers, brokers, dealers regime – as previously recommended by ESA and others, including the government’s own review into serious and organised waste crime – we retain our concerns about the effectiveness of this proposal.
“Current requirements for becoming a registered waste carrier, broker or dealer are just not stringent enough. So, unfortunately, simply checking that you have passed your waste to a registered carrier does not provide any real guarantee that it will not then be fly-tipped. We therefore look forward to further government action in the near future to tackle this issue”.
To read the full consultation and the government response, head to Defra’s website.