Scotland’s environmental watchdog has increased the size of its enforcement support team by more than 300 per cent in eight years.
The Scottish Environmental Protection Agency’s (SEPA) enforcement support team now has 14 members, up from three in 2005, as it grows to deal with increasing levels of organised waste crime.
SEPA’s enforcement reports for 2011/12 said that the illegal disposal of waste by some skip hire operators was of increasing concern for the reputation of the waste management industry at a national level.
The reports show increases in most types of enforcement related to waste crime since 2009/10 (see box).
However, while SEPA secured 43 convictions related to waste crime from 2009-10 to 2011-12, only 13 of those were in 2011/12.
Soaring waste crime in Scotland
Number of referred cases related to waste:
- 20 in 2011/12
- 17 in 2010/11
- 16 in 2009/10
Number of statutory notices related to waste:
- 56 in 2011/12
- 34 in 2010/11
- 37 in 2009/10
Number of final warning letters related to waste:
- 74 in 2011/12
- 68 in 2010/11
- 57 in 2009/10
A link between serious organised crime and illegal waste activities has been established by SEPA.
The scale of the illegal activities is difficult to ascertain, but they can range from a few tonnes to many tens of thousands of tonnes, according to the body.
A spokesperson for SEPA said: “Through the Environmental Crime Task Force and our own Enforcement Support Team, SEPA has developed an intelligence-led approach to tackling illegal waste operations in recent years. This is a joint exercise which involves a close level of cooperation with Police Scotland and other partner organisations.”
The priority for the Environmental Crime Task Force, a panel of experts brought together to help Scotland’s fight against environmental crime, is to undertake an intelligence and information gathering exercise to establish the scale of skip hire operations across Scotland, using SEPA information systems and local team knowledge.
The team consists of a number of ex-police officers with experience in dealing with organised criminals.
Other attempts to tackle waste and landfill crimes include the Proceeds of Crime Act, which will recover money generated by criminal activities, and the proposed landfill tax Bill, which would make illegal waste deposits subject to landfill tax.
At a Scottish Environmental Services Association (SESA) event earlier this year, SEPA chairman David Siggsworth said: “The development of Scotland’s Environmental Crime Taskforce, which is chaired by SEPA’s director of operations is key to this work as is our relationship with the Police Service, who now recognise waste crime as a serious law enforcement issue in Scotland.
“The Police are increasingly keen to work with us on waste crime to share information and to undertake joint operations.”
The Environmental Crime Taskforce is due to deliver a report to ministers by the end of July.