The Environment Agency (EA) has said it is giving its enforcement officers additional training to help them identify incidents of modern slavery at waste management sites.
Speaking at a session of the Environmental Audit Committee on 12 September, EA director of regulated industry Marie Fallon said: “We work with agencies in this country, particularly around modern slavery, where we would co-operate with police and the regulators to consider any risks because we know it is an industry that is exposed to that kind of labour.”
Analysis of case notes by Hope for Justice, a charity that works with police and other agencies to help victims of forced labour, revealed more than two-thirds of victims of modern slavery in the UK are made to work in a recycling or waste facility during their time in exploitation.
An EA spokesperson told MRW: ”Our officers are receiving further training with Hope for Justice to help spot where modern slavery is taking place, as we recognise the potential for it to occur within illegal waste management.
“If we uncover suspicions of slavery in the course of our investigations into environmental crime, we share that information with the police who have the direct powers to tackle it.
”We regularly work with partners such as the police, the Gangmasters Labour Abuse Authority and local authorities because gangs are often involved in many other forms of criminality at the same time.”
Modern slavery has greatly affected the waste industry, but there has been very little public discussion on the issue within the sector.
MRW’s Industry Insight 2018 survey revealed that 8% of respondents were aware of or suspected incidents of modern slavery at recycling facilities.
The issue first entered the public consciousness in September 2016, when three men working at scrap yards in the West Midlands were arrested in police raids (pictured above). Eleven Polish men were identified as possible victims of a modern slavery gang.
A prosecution in 2017 at Teesside Crown Court saw four men jailed for a total of 32 years for their role in exploiting labourers at recycling facilities. The judge said there were “many, many victims”.