Crime in the waste and resource management sector is quickly developing into a high profile issue for society and, although not a new issue, rewards for involvement in such activity are becoming easier to realise. Within the sector, there is a growing sense that a culture of criminality is rapidly taking root.
The waste and resource management industry has worked hard to create a unified voice and their hard work is recognised by government. The new resource minister Dan Rogerson has met industry associations, discussing issues that affect them and how government can work with them to reduce the impact of waste crime, and push forward the drive towards a circular economy.
Even under the shadow of funding cuts, we know Government recognises that a strong business case can justify expenditure. By investing in tackling waste crime, it will quickly pay for itself many times over, through increased tax income, reduced clean-up costs and further developing a thriving legitimate waste sector.
All parties involved need to step up:
- Defra needs to support proper enforcement of the law by the EA and HMRC - the EA need to be held accountable for how long it takes to investigate and resolve cases, and the industry and public need support in reporting suspicious activities.
- The rules that operators follow need to be correct – the development of testing systems to ensure waste is correctly classified for tax purposes, along with businesses being able to fund clean-ups in the case of business failure or fire are essential.
- Legitimate businesses need support to ensure they do not become victims of crime – the provision of information, education and templates to protect businesses, along with a review of the Duty of Care will ensure business are better prepared.
- Punishments fitting the crime need to be guaranteed – the recent Sentencing Council guidelines go some way to ensuring this, but they need to be implemented and continually reviewed to make sure they stay relevant.
Protecting the economy and the environment, along with seeing criminals operating in the waste industry held to account is the ultimate aim. The resources required for proper enforcement are small in comparison with the benefits, and the case for investment is strong.
Now is the time for Government, industry and other key stakeholders to come together and address the issue of waste crime, so that the perpetrators will no longer continue to profit from criminal activity.
Barry Dennis is a trustee of the Environmental Services Association Education Trust which has produced an extensive report on waste crime: Tackling Britain’s Dirty Secrets