Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa)’s national operations waste and enforcement manager Willie Wilson told MRW the organisation employs a 10-strong waste crime team, compared with 170 in England, with other staff also spending some time working in the area.
Known unlicensed activity is mapped in each region using site surveys and environmental risk assessments.
For example, the regulator visited 203 unlicensed sites in south-west Scotland last year, of which 92 remain on an ‘active’ list. The remainder were considered inactive or resolved by quick intervention. As new unlicensed sites are notified to the team, they are investigated, assessed and added to the list.
Of the 92 active sites, 40 either ceased operating, the waste was removed or an exemption licence was applied such that no further activity was required by the crime team. A significant number of these have been waste transfer stations, skip hire companies and end-of-life vehicle operators.
During the year the team dealt with at least five prosecutions.
Waste data collection and understanding of that data are two areas Sepa needed to improve, Wilson said, as was closer working with councils.
Life Smart Waste, of which he is the technical lead, is an EU project which seeks to identify the drivers for waste crime and how to educate and change behaviours. The innovative aspect of the project lies in its collaborative approach between environmental and non-environmental bodies, the police, customs and financial authorities.
Specific objectives include identifying ‘challenging’ waste streams, problem waste operators and illegal waste activities as well as designing intelligence-led interventions.
Expected results include at least six enforcement agencies not involved in the scheme adopting some of its practices and technologies. It also expects at least three agencies to use an intelligence ‘hub’ beyond the life of the project.
Wilson said: “Criminals will adapt and move on to other areas, and we are dynamic and flexible in how we tackle this criminality. Life Smart Waste looks at how we work upstream, how we work with industries and government to deliver change.”