The Environment Agency (EA) closed almost 1,000 illegal waste sites in 2015-16, according to a new report from the regulator.
Its ‘Regulating the waste industry’ report says it stopped more than 50% of new illegal waste sites within 90 days during this period, more than ever before.
It also inspected 1,388 containers prior to export, compared with 167 in 2012-13.
The EA also estimates that illegal exports of WEEE and household waste fell by 17% between 2014 and 2016, with a net benefit to the UK economy of £2.75m.
Between 2014 and 2015, the EA estimates the number of permitted waste facilities increased by 2%. The report also says:
- serious pollution incidents caused by permitted sites decreased by 36%
- poor performing permitted sites are down 20%
- persistently poor performing sites are down 6%
- sites of high public interest (that concern local communities) decreased by 53% from 30 to 14
Executive director of environment and business, Harvey Bradshaw said: “The sites we regulated caused less serious pollution incidents, less air emissions and we closed almost 1,000 illegal waste sites.
“The EA will continue to take swift action to protect the environment, raise standards of poor performers and use new techniques to disrupt illegal activity.”
The Environmental Services Association’s head of regulation, Sam Corp said: “ESA is pleased that increased Government funding has enabled the EA to focus more efforts on tackling waste crime and that this is starting to show a return on investment.
“We are particularly encouraged that the EA seems to be closing illegal sites down more quickly than previously, which can only help to minimise the misery caused by such sites to local communities and the financial impact on legitimate operators.
“However, the fact that nearly 1,000 new illegal sites are being found year-on-year shows the sheer scale of the problem and it is clear that now is not the time to take the foot off the gas.”
Corp said that tackling waste crime had to remain a priority for Government and regulators.
“We are also encouraged to see that the overall environmental performance of the regulated business in the waste sector has improved in 2015 and of course we will continue to work with the EA to look at ways to continue this improvement,” he added.
In The Guardian, EA chief executive Sir James Bevan quoted some of the report’s figures and described waste crime as “the new narcotics”.
Departing EA head of illegals and waste Mat Crocker, in a speech at RWM, said that during his five years in the post a similar number of illegal sites were discovered as were closed (around 4,500-5,000).