Public urged to be wary of waste crime
The Environment Agency (EA) is urging people to be aware of the signs of illegal waste sites and to report any suspicious activity.
According to the EA, waste crime diverts up to £1 billion each year from legitimate businesses and public budgets, as well as affecting communities and harming the environment.
The government body also says that around 41 per cent of active illegal waste sites are less than 50 metres from ‘people’s homes, schools, hospitals and areas of outstanding national beauty’.
As such, the EA is urging the public to be vigilant of suspicious activity, such as:
- waste business activity out of hours;
- increases in the number of lorries entering a site;
- waste going into a site but not coming out;
- smoke caused from constant burning; and
- water pollution.
Other warning signs of illegal waste operations include: the lack of a sign at the site entrance giving the operator’s name and permit number; flyers advertising cheap disposal rates; and strong odours coming from waste sites, the EA adds.
Anyone aware of any suspicious activity is being asked to call the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or make a report online. Fly-tipping incidents should be reported to the relevant local councils.
The EA is also reminding the public that all businesses, residents and producers of waste are legally obligated to check that any party disposing of their waste is properly licensed. Anyone contracting a company to dispose of waste is therefore urged to check their licence or checking the public register to see if a site is permitted or the company is a registered waste carrier.
Those found operating an illegal waste site can face unlimited fines and up to five years imprisonment. Other possible sanctions include seizure of vehicles, driving disqualifications, and community service, while the EA is also empowered to use the Proceeds of Crime Act to recover any monies generated as a result of illegal activity, ‘often running into hundreds of thousands of pounds’.
The Welsh Government and the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) are also currently working on further enhancing the Environment Agency (EA) and Natural Resources Wales’s (NRW) enforcement powers when it comes to waste crime.
Waste crime ‘hinders investment in legitimate infrastructure’
Commenting on the need to report illegal waste sites, Mat Crocker, Deputy Director for Illegals and Waste at the EA, said: “The dust, odour and noise from illegal sites can be very disruptive for people living nearby.
“What’s more, illegal waste operators undercut legitimate industry which can hinder investment in infrastructure that would help improve the environment.
“We are urging people to be aware of the signs to spot and report suspicious activity anonymously to Crimestoppers."
Plastics recycler fined for illegal storing of hazardous waste
The warning follows on from a recent waste crime sentencing. Glenn Walsh, 53, of Portrack, was fined a total of £4,800 by Teesside Magistrates Court on Tuesday (28 July) after admitting to two offences of failing to comply with his environmental permit, one offence of storing controlled waste without a permit, and one offence of failing to contain waste.
The court heard how officers estimated that up to 40,000 litres of hazardous liquid (mineral oil, edible oil and solvents) had been found on the site of Walsh’s business Stockton Industrial Services (SIS) Plastic Recyclers, in Stockton-on-Tees. On questioning, Walsh admitted that a further 12,000 litres had been removed from the site. He was also found to have tried to conceal hazardous waste in a trailer off-site.
According to the court, Walsh cooperated with the investigation and has since cleared his site of hazardous material, but magistrates told him that there ‘was a serious risk of harm if a fire had broken out due to the large amounts of hazardous waste on site’.
As well as being fined, Walsh was also ordered to pay the EA’s full costs of bringing the case to court (£6,065.95).
Speaking after the court case, EA Team Leader Tristan Drought said: “We take waste crime extremely seriously. Our permits are in place to protect people and the environment, and the illegal storage of hazardous waste can have potentially devastating consequences.
“We urge everyone to be on the alert for waste crime. If you suspect a business near you of illegally handling or storing waste then report it to us anonymously through Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.”
Learn more about how the Environment Agency tackles waste crime.