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Who you gonna call – waste crime busters!

hill top farm

Waste that has been dumped illegally – on farmers’ land, along country lanes, in empty warehouses – is increasingly in the headlines. For the owner of the land on which the waste is dumped, this means bearing the responsibility and the cost for clearing it up – and finding someone who can do that job.

Enter Clearland, which will remove the waste and provide all the proper paperwork for it. Chris Farmer, director at consultancy Waste2Resource and Clearland, found that the busi­ness was getting more and more enquiries for clear-up jobs. He explains: “One of the reasons why we decided to set up the Clearland brand was because we were getting an increasing number of enquiries for this sort of work. It was the rise in activity that made us rethink our marketing and see how we could capitalise on what is a growing problem.”

Its clients range from farmers who have been conned into having what transpires to be waste tipped on their land, to industrial properties that have been accessed illegally for fly-tipping or buildings that are filled with abandoned waste after businesses have entered adminis­tration.

Farmer explains that a recent job involved a plumbing retail business in Manchester that had moved to new premises. When it went to meet its former landlord to hand back the site, it found that someone had cut off the lock from the gate and emptied several lorry-loads of waste into the yard.

“Another two or three [of our recent cases] have been on very remote sites where there has not been any CCTV…the property has been secured under normal circumstances, with a farm gate and a padlock. But what the crimi­nals have done is broken the lock and put their own lock on, so it looks as if it is still locked up – then they just keep coming back, tipping waste, locking the site and leaving again,” he says.

From Clearland’s perspective, there is a lot of small-scale activity happening. This is generally in volumes up to 100 tonnes, with the waste being tipped in lay-bys or country lanes, for example.

“Operators will take advantage of [the legal] time lag and bring in as much waste as they can before closing the business down.”

Clearland will first do a site visit to assess the quantity and see what type of waste has been deposited. “From there we can then build up a price model for the customer, to give them a cost and likely timescale that it will take to clear the waste,” Farmer says.

It will then deploy suitable equipment to deal with the problem, ranging from heavy earth-moving machinery to smaller grab wagons or forklift trucks. Customers are given full Duty of Care documentation to show that the waste has been picked up and taken to appropriate facilities.

Clearland’s jobs generally range from £10,000 up to £500,000 and it normally oper­ates on a 30-day payment system. Is the clean-up cost prohibitive to some landowners?

“We have a quote out at the moment with a client for a £2m contract, which he has had for six months. While the client wants to clear the land and it will be a benefit for the estate, he is saying he just cannot afford to pay that sort of bill at the moment. So he is looking at trying to raise the money to start the clean-up process.

“We try to be quite innovative and creative with the customer. So, for example, in that case, the customer asked if we could work in phases and clear the ugliest bit first. But doing such work piecemeal does tend to add to the [over­all] cost of the job because you are bringing equipment in and out all the time rather than just starting and working through to the finish.”

In terms of the number of jobs, Farmer says that most of Clearland’s work is related to waste crime. But if considered in terms of the value of a job, most would be for businesses going into administration – although this is less frequent. Often there is a time lag before the Environ­ment Agency (EA) can suspend such a site’s operations, so Farmer explains that “operators will take advantage of that time lag and bring in as much waste as they can before closing the business down”. This results in huge volumes being left for the landowner to clear up.

Clearland will often work with EA site officers, who want to see clean-ups being done to the required standards and know that the waste is going to licensed facilities. Larger sites can also become infested with vermin so, as well as physically removing the waste, pest con­trol plans may be needed. All the work, includ­ing haulage, is subcontracted by Clearland to a small team of approved contractors. This is done on a national basis and Clearland man­ages the work on-site.

Farmer believes there are always going to be opportunities in waste clear-up, and points to the fact that this proportion of its business is growing. His view is that increasing land-fill tax and the reduction in landfill capacity will support this. He adds that “people can be very creative about how they get rid of their waste”.

ROOT CAUSES AND RECOMMENDATIONS IN REPORT

estimated economic impact of waste crime in england

estimated economic impact of waste crime in england

The recent Rethinking Waste Crime report was commissioned by the Environmental Services Association and the Environmental Services Association Education Trust, and written by Eunomia. Two factors are necessary for a crime to occur: reward and opportunity. Potential rewards generated by waste crime have increased, but due to “systemic failures” in the way the sector operates, risk of detection has remained low.

Factors include:

  • Regulatory effort is focused on sites where waste management operations occur. Other parts of the waste management chain, such as waste carriers and brokers, are not subject to this level of regulation.
  • Financial transactions in the waste industry are structured around upfront payments. Having already received payment, a service provider can default upon its obligation to perform a service, often without suffering financially.
  • The test for operator competence is only applied to those who have an environmental permit. Others have operator competence assumed and not tested, such as waste carriers, brokers and dealers.
  • The funding of waste regulation and enforcement in the Environment Agency is split into two models: charges levied on operators with permits and grant-in-aid funding provided by Defra.

The exemptions, waste carriers and waste brokers regimes do not levy annual subsistence fees and there is currently no method for regular inspections to be funded by registration holders.

Recommendations

  1. Reform the waste carrier, broker and dealer registration process.
  2. Mandate the use of electronic waste transfer notes.
  3. Reform the waste exemption regime.
  4. Enforce failures in duty of care by waste producers, waste carriers and brokers.
  5. Apply bans to repeat and serious offenders.
  6. Increase the timeliness of enforcement interventions.
  7. Enhance understanding of waste market and price dynamics.
  8. Impose landfill tax on illegal waste sites.
  9. Ringfence landfill tax revenue for enforcement.
  10. Increase resource flexibility and co-ordination.
  11. Fund awareness campaigns focused on waste producers.
  12. Obligation on local authorities to identify legal operators for managing C&D waste
  13. Obligation for local authorities to provide end destination reports.

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