At least one new illegal waste site appears every time the Environment Agency (EA) successfully closes one, its chair has admitted.
Speaking to a Keep Britain Tidy event at Middlesex University, Emma Howard Boyd (pictured) said: “Waste companies are the unsung heroes of the environmental movement – making sure all that waste which disappears from our doorsteps ends up in the right place.”
But she said this work was threatened by the activities of operators who ignore environmental regulations, in particular “organised gangs of waste criminals who blight local communities, legitimate businesses and the environment”.
She said EA officers were engaged in dangerous and difficult work to counter waste crime, and in 2017-18 stopped more than 800 illegal sites.
But she admitted: “During the same period we identified more than 850 more. For every one we were closing down, we found more than one new site.”
Likening those involved to the mafia, she said: “Waste crime is increasingly organised, involving career criminals engaged in sophisticated fraud. It involves illegal exports, fly-tipping and burning of waste, as well as tax avoidance.”
Howard Boyd said it was “no coincidence” that organised waste crime was also deeply implicated in modern slavery.
In 2017-18, English local authorities dealt with nearly 100,000 incidents of fly-tipping at a cost of about £58m, with additional costs to private landowners which she put at £50m-£150m a year.