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What a load of rubbish! Waste and Serious Organised Crime is on the rise

13 December 2018
Regulatory Compliance
The Independent review into serious and organised crime in the waste sector was published this month. The review, carried out in conjunction with an independent advisory board of waste and crime professionals, Defra and the Environment Agency, makes a number of wide ranging recommendations for an overhaul of the system currently in place to tackle the problem of waste crime. 

What is waste crime?

Waste crime can include a number of activities including fly-tipping, mis-description/labelling of waste, illegal dumping or burning of waste, operation of illegal waste management sites and illegal export. There are many models of operation for committing waste crimes – from turning up to farm land or industrial land and dumping waste through to more sophisticated operations involving misrepresentations and fraud whereby registered companies acquire licences and display certificates in order to "provide a veil of legitimacy" for crime.

Why is it a problem?

200 million tonnes of waste is produced in the UK each year. The estimated cost of waste crime is £600 million, with some estimating it could be closer to £1 billion. Of over 4,600 organised crime groups registered on the National Crime Agency database in 2017, a staggering 92% of those groups were involved in environmental crime.

The recommendations

The independent review makes a number of wide ranging recommendations centred around developing a more robust system for detecting and enforcing against waste criminals. The review recommends the following:

  • development of joint agency working and the establishment of the Joint Unit for Waste Crime, with better relationships between the Environment Agency and police and crime commissioners
  • develop strategic relationships between the EA and PCC's, offering support and resources to areas which are targeted by organised crime groups to exploit environmental crime
  • granting additional powers to the Environment Agency in surveillance (under Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA))
  • lowering the burden of evidence currently required by the Environment Agency
  • exploration of how the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) can be utilised
  • the introduction of mandatory electronic tracking for waste on a national database
  • granting full access to police databases to the Environment Agency
  • Stricter liabilities for waste producers – to be made accountable for end destination of their waste products

Who are the duty holders?

Any party handling waste at any point from initial production through to disposal is a duty holder, whether this is a domestic handler, a business, a waste company or a local authority.

The legal duty is to take all reasonable steps to ensure that when waste is transferred it is managed correctly (imposed under Section 34 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990). This means that practical steps are required to check that the next waste holder in the chain is authorised and ultimately where the waste is going to be taken. For commercial entities and local authorities, this means that evidence of checks and carrying out due diligence on waste holders is imperative.

Is your business protected?

If you require any information or specialist advice, please contact our Environmental Regulation team (David.Egan@dwf.law or Nick.Barker@dwf.law).

To read more please go to https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/756526/waste-crime-review-2018-final-report.pdf

Further Reading