Regulation of waste in Northern Ireland is highly vulnerable to criminal infiltration, according to a new study.
The independent Mills report highlights that criminals can attain vast profits but that there are “low deterrents”. It recommends the waste system be examined to understand how criminals exploit it.
It also called for more robust regulatory activity to stop criminals entering the waste sector.
The report said criminality is not a Northern Ireland specific problem as the UK and Republic of Ireland are also susceptible to such infiltration.
It states: “If illegal dumping is discovered and the perpetrators caught, the current sentencing regime provides very little deterrent and even if the Proceeds of Crime Act can be used to increase the financial penalties, vast profits can still be made.”
The report was called for after an estimated 516,000 tonnes of waste were discovered by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) in an area adjacent to the River Faughan in the townland of Mobuoy near Derry.
In June 2013, the then environment minister Alex Attwood, revoked the operator’s licence following an investigation into allegations of large-scale criminal offending involving the disposal of waste.
Attwood then commissioned the report from Chris Mills, former director of the Welsh Environment Agency.
Mark H Durkan said: “Mr Mills is clear in pointing out that we have serious problems right across our waste systems.
“I have directed the new chief executive of the NIEA to urgently prepare a robust range of actions for my consideration. I will issue my response to the Mills Report in the new year so that everyone is clear about the actions that will be taken to fix the problems that Mr Mills has identified.
“We have already allocated £1.5m to NIEA to upgrade its waste regulation and enforcement activities. This marks the beginning of a major strengthening of NIEA’s regulatory activities.”