Three UK companies are currently being investigated by the Environment Agency (EA) for suspected illegal waste shipments to Poland, Defra has confirmed.
The Daily Telegraph reported that UK companies had become involved in an international criminal investigation into the so-called ‘trash mafia’, which burns or landfills material exported and imported as recyclable material.
Defra confirmed that three companies were “currently under active criminal investigation” for suspected illegal waste shipments to Poland.
The department said that illegal exports were a breach of the EU Waste Shipments Regulations, and enforcement options included forcing operators to repatriate waste at their cost, financial penalties and imprisonment.
It added that it had not been asked by Polish authorities to look into a fire at a landfill site in Zgierz in May, which reportedly contained waste from the UK.
A spokesperson for Defra said: “Waste and recycling must be properly managed, whether it is processed at home or abroad.
“We work closely with the waste industry, EA and local authorities to safeguard the environment and crack down on rogue operators who try to play the system.
”Any operators found to be illegally exporting waste could face severe sanctions – from financial penalties up to imprisonment.”
An EA spokesperson said: “We have a strong track record of using enforcement to bring businesses back into compliance.
”Since 2011, we have brought 258 businesses into compliance using civil sanctions, which has resulted in a combined financial payment of more than £5m to environmental causes.”