The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) has stepped up efforts to tackle the increasing threat of international criminal gangs muscling in on the waste industry.
Eunomia has been commissioned by Sepa and Zero Waste Scotland (ZWS) to investigate how public procurement can be used to minimise opportunities for waste crime.
A project has also been funded through the European Commission LIFE Programme to improve understanding of how illegal waste markets behave, as part of international efforts to tackle crime.
Announcements on the two initiatives were made at a waste crime conference held in Edinburgh on 26 November.
It brought together representatives of Sepa with the Environmental Crime Taskforce (ECTF), Scottish Government, Police Scotland and Solace, the representative body for public sector chief executives.
Sepa executive director Calum MacDonald, who is also chairman of the ECTF, said: “Crime in the waste industry is a growing problem in Scotland, as it is in other parts of the world. Waste streams that are of low quality and value, or are difficult to treat, persistently attract criminal elements that profit at the expense of the environment and legitimate operators.
“Good work is already being done in Scotland to identify those responsible and break the supply chains, but we must adapt as fast as the criminals do. Waste is a global resource, and it needs a response that works across borders.”
Detective chief superintendent John Cuddihy, head of organised crime and counter terrorism at Police Scotland, said: “Organised Crime Groups know no boundaries, they are driven by supply and demand and environmental crime is one of the areas they are diversifying into.
“To them, it’s all about profit. They obtain multi-million pound contracts and by avoiding paying tax, or dealing with the health and safety costs associated with the responsible disposal of waste, their profit margins are huge.”
Eunomia managing director Mike Brown said: “Waste crime is a growing issue, and something Eunomia understands very well. We’re delighted to be able to help Zero Waste Scotland and SEPA with this work, which also draws on our expertise in public procurement, and look forward to producing accessible and easy to implement guidance so that public bodies can be confident regarding how their waste is handled.”
Eunomia consultant Peter Jones spoke at the conference outlining findings of a report published earlier this year. ‘Tackling Britain’s Dirty Secret’, which was commissioned by the Environmental Services Association Education Trust, estimated waste crime costs the UK economy around £808m a year.
The new project, which is being managed by ZWS, will produce guidance for public bodies service providers. It will include good practice examples of clauses in waste contracts, as well as ways of evaluating them.
Key themes are likely to include:
- What is waste crime and what are the consequences, deterrents and interventions?
- Designing out crime when designing a tender specification
- Evaluating tender returns and evidence
- Development of waste crime impact assessment
- Contract management and supply chain data capture
- Future proofing – Regulatory Reform Act
Speaking at the conference in Edinburgh Colin Paterson, left, Viridor’s regional managing director for Scotland, said: “Waste crime is a significant and growing problem in Scotland. It is funding organised criminality which causes misery in our communities.
“More than that, it is damaging our environment, undermining legally-compliant businesses and threatening the multi-million pound investment in green infrastructure Scotland needs.
“Scotland’s modern ‘waste’ and resource sector is professional, tightly regulated and combines world-leading recycling and energy recovery technologies with green jobs for graduates, apprentices and new entrants. It’s right therefore that Scotland has shown real leadership in this area, with a multi-agency approach cracking down on waste criminals.
“That focus has shown impressive early results, piling pressure on illegal operators. Stamping out recycling rogues requires us all to play our part – selecting responsible operators with staff, skills and Scottish infrastructure necessary to transform waste. Put simply, if a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”