Plans to crackdown on the use of waste exemptions, tackle incompetent site operators and introduce tougher penalties over Duty of Care have been detailed in a Defra waste crime consultation.
The initiative, which was initially expected to be published last summer, comes only days after the launch of the Defra 25-year environment plan.
The Environment Agency (EA) will be given greater powers to drive up standards, improve crime detection and deter illegal activity by faster and tougher enforcement.
The consultation, which is in partnership with Natural Resources Wales and runs until 26 March, has three elements:
- Raising the standard of operator competence across all permitted waste sites by strengthening the regulators’ assessment and enforcement abilities
- Reforming the waste exemptions regime within the waste permitting system
- Reinforcing householders’ Duty of Care obligations in the fight against fly-tipping
Defra acknowledges the widespread concern in the waste industry that a lack of competence is causing poor performance across the sector.
It says: “While certain operators deliberately choose not to achieve the levels of competence needed to run their waste site in line with their permit, other operators are ignorant about what levels of competence they need.”
Operator competence is to be assessed under four areas:
- Past performance – the scope of offences, behaviour and relevant persons that the regulators can take account of when assessing competence will be widened
- Management systems – permitted waste operators must manage and operate in accordance with a written management system
- Technical competence – permitted waste operators must demonstrate appropriate technical knowledge of their site and provide details of the technically competent manager
- Financial competence/provision – the operator of a permitted site must be financially capable of running their waste business and provide financial security
In terms of waste permit exemptions, Defra wants to:
- Prohibit the use of exemptions in specified circumstances
- Change 10 exemptions identified as being associated with the greatest levels of non-compliance and illegality
- Require additional information of operators to support effective regulation
- Improve the process to register or continue an exemption
Councils could be given more powers to fine people whose waste ends up fly-tipped on public land. Under the Duty of Care element, Defra is proposing to let local authorities issue fixed penalty notices to households if they fail to ensure their waste is disposed of legally.
Waste crime cost the English economy more than £600m in 2015, including lost landfill tax revenues and clean-up costs.
Emma Howard Boyd, chair of the EA, said: “The new powers for the EA to tackle problem waste sites will be introduced by spring 2018, subject to parliamentary approval. This follows a public consultation in which [90%] of respondents were in favour of allowing regulators to take physical steps, such as locking the gates to an illegal waste site, to prevent operators from accepting more illegally dumped waste and enabling the EA to require all the waste to be removed.”
Chartered Institution of Wastes Management chief executive Colin Church said the new powers and measures proposed by Defra would be “critical” in fighting a growing tide of of waste crime.
“In the longer term, we need to weed out the cowboys and those who are using loopholes in the current regulatory regime, and raising the bar on competency and reviewing the exemptions system are good places to start.
“The CIWM would like to see more, however. One of the real weaknesses of our current framework is a lack of focus on waste carriers, brokers and dealers, who can register for very little cost, with no requirement to demonstrate technical competence and few, if any, inspections.”
The Regulatory Policy Committee, which scrutinises the costs and benefits in regulatory proposals, was not satisfied that the impact assessments provided sufficient evidence to support the proposals, and has told Defra they need further review.