Record fines handed out for waste crime, says EA report
A new report from the Environment Agency (EA) shows that 93 per cent of the businesses it regulated in 2017/18 showed good compliance with their environmental permits – but non-compliant businesses faced record fines.
Each year the EA publishes its Regulating for People, the Environment and Growth (RPEG) report, which summarises the environmental performance of regulated businesses in England and evaluates the effectiveness of the EA’s regulatory approach.
This latest report shows that 93 per cent of the 14,000 businesses regulated by the EA showed good compliance, while a record £25.5 million in fines were issued by the courts for environmental offences brought by the EA, compared to £8 million in the previous year. Data released earlier in the year showed that the average fine for non-compliant companies has increased six-fold over the past five years, rising from £23,731 in 2013/14 to £147,575 in 2017/18.
Waste crime continues to be a blight on the UK environment and places a significant burden on enforcement agencies and local authorities, costing the waste industry and taxpayer around £604 million a year in England through lost landfill tax revenues and clean-up costs. The RPEG report states that the EA is closing an average of two illegal waste sites every day – 812 in total across 2017/18 – but is discovering a similar number of new sites at the same rate.
Meanwhile, serious pollution incidents fell to 419 across the year, down 18 per cent compared to 2016, while the number of persistently poorly-managed sites also reduced by 18 per cent compared to 2016 figures. Of all the serious pollution incidents recorded, 65 were caused by waste management activities, down from 80 incidents in 2016 and 170 in 2014.
The use of Enforcement Undertakings also increased across 2017/18; this is a type of civil sanction whereby companies admit liability and make a financial contribution to put right environmental harm they have caused. A record £2.2 million was received from the 60 Enforcement Undertakings accepted by the EA, an increase on the £900,000 collected in 2016.
The report notes that waste crime is becoming more organised and the government will take this into account in its upcoming waste crime review, which has looked at how the EA, its partners and the law enforcement system can best tackle this scourge. The government has already announced extended powers for the EA earlier in the year, including the ability to block access to sites and to force operators to clear all waste at problem sites, while the bar required to hold a waste permit will be raised and low-risk waste operations will also require a permit.
Commenting on the report, Harvey Bradshaw, Executive Director of the EA, said: “Our regulation is supporting a healthier environment and safer communities – serious pollution incidents fell by 18 per cent. We closed down over 800 illegal waste sites, and the courts have imposed record levels of fines on companies for environmental offences.
“We are committed to supporting businesses to innovate and grow, in return, we expect that businesses take their responsibilities to protecting the environment seriously.”
You can view the Regulating for People, the Environment and Growth (RPEG) report in full on the EA website.