We have known for some time that the waste and resources sector is a target for organised crime gangs, but the extent of the human trafficking case in the West Midlands is truly shocking.
Ever since MRW first became aware of modern day slavery in the sector we have sought to uncover the facts and figures. I see this as a vital role for a responsible industry publication.
The sector has shown an understandable suspicion and resistance to talk about the problem with journalists. Let me reassure you we are here to help and support.
Biffa and other large firms have done well to react to the threat of labour exploitation behind the scenes – but what about the hundreds of smaller waste companies across the UK? How do we ensure best practice for the whole sector?
Much of the sector is made up of SMEs that won’t necessarily have access to the kind of resources the national companies have. The smaller MRFs, scrap sites, textiles facilities – these are at much higher risk. So how, as a caring and responsible industry, do we make sure the training, knowledge and help is there to identify and root out forced labour everywhere?
There is a clear parallel to health and safety. We all know waste is a dangerous business and that many companies will have an incident or be prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive at some point. That doesn’t stop open sharing of best health and safety practice.
MRW will be setting up a modern day slavery campaign to ‘root it out’ of the waste sector. We want to see as much cross-industry action on the issue as possible. I urge anyone interested to contact me or my colleagues.