Northern Ireland’s environment minister has outlined plans to step up his department’s inspections regime in response to warnings that the waste industry is vulnerable to organised crime.
Mark H Durkan said that by the end of June he will review the legislative framework for waste management and establish a new body, the Resource Efficiency Directorate, to co-ordinate waste policies.
He said: “The waste sector in Northern Ireland is highly vulnerable to criminal infiltration and some of this activity is linked to organised crime.
“That’s why it’s important that I reshape the Department of Environment (DoE) to create a new directorate that will be joined up.”
An ‘Operational Strategy’ and an action plan will also be set up. The plan includes:
- targeted inspections on waste operators
- partnership with local government so that councils and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) share information, resources and strategies to manage waste
- innovation partnerships with Northern Ireland businesses to help them reduce waste and cut costs.
Durkan also said he was developing a new bill that will enable the integration of Northern Ireland’s policies on environment and economy. The ‘Better Regulation Bill’ will allow the DoE to issue a single integrated environmental permit to businesses, and will give officers the power to inspect against all environmental regulations.
“This will mean the same number of NIEA officers will be able to carry out a significantly increased overall number of inspections and in a much more targeted way,” said Durkan.
“We need to use the resources at our disposal much more efficiently in tackling waste crime,” he added.
The announcements followed the recommendations put forward by the Mills report, which was published in December 2013. The study highlighted the need to reconsider Northern Ireland’s waste system, to understand how criminals can exploit it and to enhance regulatory activity on the sector.
Durkan said the new policies will transform waste management in Northen Ireland. “We must be vigilant and fearless in chasing people who deliberately set out to make money by damaging our environment, our communities and our legitimate businesses through illegal waste dumping, fuel laundering and other forms of waste crime,” he said. “It is unacceptable and must be eliminated.”
- A spokesperson for the DoE said the delayed Waste Prevention Programme would be published on 14 May. The WPP is required under the EU revised Waste Framework Directive, and should have been issued by 12 December 2013.