The Environment Agency (EA) has revealed that more than 100 waste enforcement officers have been fitted with body-worn cameras and received training from the Hope for Justice (HfJ) charity to identify labour exploitation during waste site inspections.
To coincide with national Anti-Slavery Day, Biffa has joined the Slave-Free Alliance (SFA), a membership initiative run by HfJ to help businesses deal with possible cases of exploitation.
The EA announced in September that officers were receiving training, and has given more detail on the scope of the initiative.
EA officers were asked to look for common signs of exploitation, including an extreme fear of authorities, signs of physical or psychological trauma including anxiety or malnourishment, and evidence suggesting that workers may be living on-site.
Body cameras were issued to waste enforcement officers earlier this year following a “growing number of abusive incidents during site inspections”.
The EA said it had taken action in response to figures from HfJ, first revealed by MRW, that 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.
The EA said the Government’s organised waste crime review, which is due out later this year, recognises modern slavery as an “emerging criminal subset within the waste management industry”.
Marie Fallon, EA director of regulated industry, said: “Our work with HfJ has given our officers the skills to understand the signs of modern slavery which can add value to the work of the police, partners and local authorities who collectively are working to stamp it out.”
Sara Squires, HfJ UK training manager, said: “I know from first-hand experience that good-quality training leads to an improved response. More than half of referrals to HfJ of potential victims of modern slavery come from organisations we have trained, and many of those referrals lead directly to rescues.”
Biffa, which has worked with HfJ for a number of years, became the second waste management company to join the SFA following Viridor last month.
The company has issued e-learning training and education packs for staff to help them recognise the signs of human trafficking.
Anti-slavery awareness posters have also been put up in sites in multiple languages, as well as a case study which outlines the “severity of the situations facing victims internationally”.
Biffa is urging its suppliers to join the SFA.
Melanie Flogdell, Biffa divisional HR director, said: “Businesses in all sectors are concerned about discovering workers who are victims of modern day slavery in their supply chains, and we want to ensure our staff know what to look for and how to respond.
“Modern day slavery is a huge problem in the UK and one that every business has a responsibility to help eliminate. We’re proud to be in alliance with HfJ, and strive to raise awareness, not only across our company and among our suppliers, but throughout the waste industry as a whole.”
SFA director Paul Callum said: “We know the waste and recycling sector has been particularly targeted by traffickers, so it is great to see leading players in the industry, like Biffa, take such strong and proactive action to protect their operations and supply chains from modern slavery. We look forward to continuing our close work with Biffa in the months and years to come.”
Biffa has invited Susan Banister, SFA head of business development, to visit a Biffa facility in the Midlands during Anti-Slavery Day to talk to staff.
- Read more on the Slave-Free Alliance, including an interview with Paul Callum, in the upcoming issue of MRW