Scotland has positioned itself at the forefront of the battle against organised waste crime, and an initiative led by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) is bringing in industry representatives from across the UK to join in the fight.
Sepa’s Life Smart Waste (LSW) project was set up with EU funding in 2014 to improve intelligence-gathering bet-ween European agencies, including Interpol, and identify criminal enterprises which seek to exploit the industry.
If that sounds rather nebulous, boots have been put on the ground as a direct result of the project. MRW has regularly reported on LSW-prompted crack-downs such as Operation Nortese earlier this year.
Three days of action
Cross-border waste crime was tackled in a three-day campaign involving agencies from England and Scotland.
Sepa co-ordinated activities during Operation Nortese on 17-19 May 2018, including site inspections, roadside stops and port checks, in collaboration with the Environment Agency (EA), Police Scotland, the British Transport Police, HM Revenue & Customs and the Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency.
The operation forms part of Sepa’s Life Smart project to improve intelligence-gathering between European agencies and identify criminal enterprises which seek to exploit the industry.
Terry A’Hearn, Sepa chief executive, said: “The days of action are specifically designed to help us identify the scale of illicit waste transport in Scotland, and pilot a series of practical approaches which will improve our ability to tackle the issue.”
These have often focused on haulage and warehousing. A giveaway sign that organised crime has taken place is large amounts of baled waste appearing where it should not – this is no normal fly-tipping and can involve international networks of some very determined criminals.
After one of these crackdowns the realisation came that waste businesses needed to be more involved, and so the Trade Advisory Group (TAG) was born. Willie Wilson, international environmental crime liaison and LSW manager, said: “We are here to recognise the threat waste crime poses.
“TAG followed on from work we had done with environment regulators looking at the transportation of waste across regulatory boundaries. From that, it became clear we needed better engagement with the industry. Transportation is key in the disposal of waste – at some point it moves.
“Industry bodies should hear our concerns, and we collectively explore the issues to come up with solutions. That’s the basis for the group.”
Wilson talks of the need for industry to “sharpen up” its practices to make it harder for criminals. The first TAG meeting in Manchester went well and there are plans for a second one early next year, when he hopes to increase the membership.
Tag’s First Meeting Attendees
Iain Wright, Frank McCann, Robin Rofe, Adrian Evans, all LSW interventions officers
Adam Gallop, Sepa/LSW
Simon Ellin, Recycling Association
Nick Fellows, Chartered Institution of Wastes Management
Stuart McKenzie, Canal & River Trust
Tom Passmore, Dsposal
Julia Turner, Wood Recyclers Association
Les Clayton, Waste Brokers Management Association
Colleagues from the Freight Transport Association and the Road Haulage Association were unable to attend.
“We have had support for it to be chaired and led by industry – it’s not just a passive body where the industry comes and listens to regulators. For me, that’s a strong positive message.”
The Life Smart funding runs out next year, but Wilson said he hopes TAG will continue to come together regularly: “We await the outcomes of Brexit when it comes to funding. The EU Life position is unknown at this time so we’ll look again at funding in the new year.”
Defra recently put forward proposals for a joint unit of the waste industry, Environment Agency (EA) and police to combat the worst waste crimes. LSW’s initiatives will help it to target resources.
“We want to take any learning and practice and push it into whatever agency will evolve next year, whether it’s the joint unit or other bodies in Europe. The UK leads in a lot of this work.”
To find out more about TAG, contact email@example.com