Waste crime continues to hit the headlines and, clearly, there is no simple fix. But it is important that illegal waste activity is tackled head-on by the environmental regulators, the professional and trade associations and those working in the industry.
In reality most of our waste is managed responsibly and according to the relevant regulations. But rogue operators put the environment and the public at risk – not to mention the reputation of the industry.
Key stakeholders are collaborating to raise awareness through campaigns such as ‘Right Waste, Right Place’ run jointly by the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM) and the Environmental Services Association (ESA).
Defra’s continued crackdown on ‘waste cowboys’ has increased the numbers of cases that make it to the courts. And Duty of Care regulations are designed to stop waste entering the hands of illegal waste operators.
A quick internet search shows that ‘waste crime’ falls into a number of categories, with the most obvious being fly-tipping, but including more calculated activity such as the deliberate misclassification of waste, exports, non-permitted sites stockpiling huge quantities of hazardous and non-hazardous waste and mysterious fires.
The ESA currently estimates that more than £600m is lost every year by the waste industry and taxpayer due to businesses flouting regulations and disposing or storing waste illegally.
Wamitab, the industry’s training and advisory board, and the CIWM jointly run the Operator Competence Scheme, approved by Defra and the Welsh Assembly Government, which is one strand of activity designed to address safe and compliant site operation.
Wamitab works closely with the regulators to design qualifications and tests that support people to run waste management operations efficiently and effectively.
It has two components: attainment of the primary qualification relevant to the waste operator and then every two years achievement of the Continuing Competence test.
It is worth noting that Wamitab holds a database of all those who have achieved or are working towards their primary qualification as well as the results of subsequent Continuing Competence tests, which is made available to the regulators to check the status of individuals. Worth checking your certificates?
Chris James is chief executive of Wamitab