The waste industry has reacted with enthusiasm to the resource management minister’s announcement that Defra will target waste crime.
Speaking at a meeting of the Associated Parliamentary Sustainable Resource Group, Lord de Mauley said, “The strong message from the government is that waste operators who break the law will not be tolerated.”
David Palmer-Jones, chief executive of Sita UK and chairman of the industry trade body Environmental Service Association (ESA), tweeted: “Good to see Lord de Mauley prioritising enviro fraud for action by Defra & EA in 2013, long overdue, it’s time to level the playing fields!”
He told MRW, “Sound regulation is at the very foundation of our industry. Without efficient and effective regulation, all the positive environmental development which has occurred over the past ten years would be jeopardised.
“In a rapidly maturing market, stimulated by the landfill tax escalator, unscrupulous operators have been taking advantage of the lack of active compliance and control.”
He said abuses of tax and regulation are damaging to the industry because of environmental harm, the uneven field created by rogue operators undermining professional competitors, and fraudulent landfill tax avoidance.
Defra working on waste crime enforcement
Lord De Mauley said that Defra was working to crack down on enforcement in a couple of ways: by supporting work by the Sentencing Council ensuring fines for the illegal dumping of waste really do act as a deterrent and also by providing greater powers for the seizure of vehicles suspected of the involvement in waste crime.
A Defra spokesperson told MRW that Defra, as the chair of the National Flytipping Prevention Group, had gathered evidence of a wide range of fines for flytippers in England, which demonstrated some very low fines that were given.
“This has helped convince the Sentencing Council of the need for flytipping sentencing guidelines for magistrates, and Defra has provided valuable material around the nature and seriousness of offences and the financial gain from illegal waste management,” said the spokesman, who added that the guidelines will go to public consultation in due course.
He also said: “We expect to introduce powers of vehicle seizure suspected of involvement in waste crime later this year.”
Environment Agency concerns
Lord de Mauley also said that the Environment Agency (EA) was focusing its resources on dealing with illegal operations and dumping incidents.
Palmer-Jones said: “With the agency also recognising this growing trend and starting to take a renewed interest in this area, I am hopeful that we will soon begin to see a reduction in waste crimes”
However, the ESA have warned that the number of illegal waste sites is rising because the EA is discovering new sites more quickly than it is able to shut them down.
“2013 must be the year in which the trend is put into reverse, and if this is not achieved, the amount of resources the Agency has to tackle waste crime will need to be revisited,” said Sam Corp, head of regulation at the ESA.
He also said the trade body was concerned about the timing of the review of the EA’s and Natural England’s roles.
“It would have been better to wait to see what the Welsh experience was of a merged single environmental body so that this could inform the Review. ESA would be concerned if the outcome of the Triennial Review led to any loss off resources for fighting environmental crime.”
An EA spokesperson said: “Cracking down on waste crime continues to be a top priority. We’re determined to protect the environment and local communities – and support legitimate businesses.
The agency said waste criminals were increasingly being made to pay for their actions: the number of people sent to prison for committing serious waste crime offences has almost trebled in the last three years and in 2012, the courts issued £1.7m in fines for serious waste offences – nearly £800,000 more than the previous year.
“But we are not complacent and there is more to do particularly around stopping illegal waste sites. Our new taskforce will help us break this cycle. We also need everyone to play their part and report suspected waste crime to us or anonymously to Crimestoppers.”