A joint unit of the waste industry, Environment Agency (EA) and police should be established to combat the most serious waste crimes.
The call has come from the report of the independent review of waste crime in England, ordered by environment secretary Michael Gove.
He said this and other recommendations would be considered in the Government’s resources and waste strategy.
The review also concluded that compulsory electronic tracking of waste could help to clamp down on illegal movements, and that there should be financial penalties for producers if their waste were deposited illegally.
It said waste crime cost the English economy more than £600m in 2015, and that criminals should have “greater cause to fear the consequences of their actions”.
Gove said: “The threat to society from waste crime is real. Criminals are running illegal waste sites as a cover for theft, human trafficking, drug running and money laundering. It is costing our economy millions of pounds each year and blighting our communities.
“I welcome today’s review. We are committed to clamping down on these unscrupulous groups and we will set out our next steps in our forthcoming resources and waste strategy.”
The Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM) endorsed all the review’s recommendations.
Head of policy and communications Pat Jennings said: “These recommendations respond to repeated calls from the CIWM in recent years for adequate resourcing of the regulators, a more multidisciplinary approach to maximise intelligence sharing, a stronger regulatory regime for waste carriers, brokers, and dealers, and duty of care.
“We have also advocated the wider roll out of some form of electronic duty of care, both as a potential tool in fighting waste crime and to provide the data on material flows needed to underpin progress towards more circular economic models.”
Colin Church, who was CIWM chief executive when he sat on the review group, said: “This is a major milestone in the fight against the escalating problem of waste crime.”
But the British Metals Recycling Association said the review had not considered the metals sector.
A BMRA spokesperson told MRW: ”The review does make reference to metal in the context of registrations being refused or revoked by the EA if the applicant has committed an offence related to metal offences under specific legislation; unfortunately, it does not reference the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2013.
”With cash payments for scrap metal going unchecked across the country, it is concerning that these potentially high-value transactions have not drawn more attention from a money laundering aspect alone.”
This story was updated on 16 November at 15.46 to include a quote from the BMRA
The review’s key recommendations are:
- Creation of a Joint Unit for Waste Crime led by the EA with the police, police and crime commissioners, HM Revenue & Customs and waste industry representatives, with EA funding reviewed accordingly.
- A national database of registered waste brokers to make it harder for unscrupulous operators to do businesses.
- Strategic relationships established between the EA and commissioners.
- The EA should have the tools and powers to pursue and disrupt organised crime.
- Legislation should allow for more effective prevention and disruption of organised crime.
- Mandatory electronic tracking of waste.
- The EA to have full access to relevant police databases.
- Reform of registration and duty of care requirements for carriers, brokers and dealers.
- Waste producers should be held accountable for the end destination of their waste products.
- Reform of funding for the regulation and policing of the waste sector.