The Environment Agency (EA) shut down 1,279 illegal waste sites last year, a 70% increase on the year before, according to the agency.
Its annual Waste Crime Report 2013 (see PDF, right) says this amounts to around 25 illegal waste sites closed every week between April 2012 and March 2013.
It is not known whether the number of illegal sites decreased or increased during this time, Matt Crocker, EA head of illegals, told MRW.
The number of successful prosecutions for waste crime also fell last year with only 171 compared to 249 the year before.
The most common types of waste found at illegal waste sites shut down by the EA were construction and demolition (31%) and household and commercial (both 27%).
Waste electronics and electrical equipment (WEEE) were found at 3% of illegal sites shut down by the EA but Crocker said that, although the proportion of WEEE was small, the potential impact on the environment due to hazardous substances was significant.
The EA also dealt with 107 large, serious and organised incidents of waste dumping between April 2012 and March 2013.
The report states that by the end of the waste crime crackdown, at the end of March 2013, the EA was aware of 820 active illegal waste sites.
‘More to do’
Defra minister Dan Rogerson said: “Shutting down illegal waste sites is good for both the environment and the vast majority of waste businesses that comply with the law, and contributes to the building of a strong economy.
“We know there is more to do and we will continue to work closely with the Environment Agency and industry to crack down on waste crime.”
The agency is seeing more organised criminal activity moving into the waste sector, it said.
The EA spent £85m on waste regulation, and estimates that waste crime diverts as much as £1bn every year from legitimate businesses and HM Treasury.
Steve Lee, chief executive officer of the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management tweeted: “Can’t compete with criminals. Tough regulator response vital to compliant industry”
Ed Mitchell, EA director of environment and business, said: “We are taking tough action to deal with this problem, through the improved use of intelligence and stronger partnerships with the police and other enforcement bodies.”
In particular, the significant increase in illegal waste site closures was caused by the Illegal Waste Sites Taskforce’s greater focus on crime over the past year, the agency said.
Crocker said working with the police, local authorities and HMRC has been critical to the success of the taskforce.
The taskforce comes to an end on 31 December 2013 and its last phase will involve highlighting what has been learnt and putting it into the EA’s routine work, he added.
The EA also assisted with the National Metal Theft Taskforce. The EA’s report states there was a 44% reduction in metal theft in 2012/13 compared to 2012/11.
- MRW reported in September that the EA had shut down more sites than ever before this year.