Illegal operators are being targeted in the latest effort by the Environment Agency to crack down on criminal disposal of waste.
On 10 June, Defra announced a review to gather views on how to more effectively prevent “organised crime groups (OCGs) who profit from waste crime”.
It is estimated that the activity of these groups costs the English economy around £600m a year.
Environment secretary Michael Gove said: “Organised criminals running illegal waste dumps and fly-tipping are blighting local communities. They cost our economy vast amounts of money, pollute our environment and harm our wildlife.
“We must crack down on these criminals who have no regard for the effect they have on peoples’ lives. The time is right for us to look at how we can best tackle these antisocial and inexcusable crimes.”
The review will be chaired by Lizzie Noel, a non-executive director at Defra, and will consider various issues, including:
- The types of crimes being committed and the organised crime groups involved;
- The environmental, community and economic effects of serious and organised waste crime;
- How the Environment Agency, other organisations and the law enforcement system can work together to tackle the threat;
- What recommendations to make for a strategic approach to serious and organised waste crime.
More than 850 new illegal waste sites were discovered by the Environment Agency in 2016-17. While an average of two illegal waste sites are shut down every day, they continue to create severe problems for local communities and business, particularly in rural areas, as well as posing a risk to key national infrastructure.
A study by the Home Office suggests that criminals may also use waste management activities such as operating illegal waste sites as a cover for crimes such as theft, human trafficking, fraud, drugs supply, firearms supply, and money laundering.
Minister of state for security and economic crime Ben Wallace said: “Organised crime groups exploit any opportunity to make money. Our local communities are being scarred by the illegal dumping of waste, while at the same time people are being conned into placing contracts with dodgy waste firms.
“We are committed to ending this scourge and I look forward to exploring what more Defra, local authorities, the private sector and the police can do on this issue.”
Review chairwoman Lizzie Noel has more than 20 years’ experience of senior roles in both the private and public sectors.
She said: “The health of our communities, environment, and economy is being harmed by organised groups committing serious waste crimes.
“This review is an opportunity to properly understand the extent of this criminal activity, and I look forward to working with a range of partners to ensure our response is robust and effective.”
Since 2014, the government has given the Environment Agency an extra £60m towards enforcement work to tackle waste crime. This extra investment has shown a return of about £5 for every £1 extra spent.
Last year two illegal wastes sites were shut down every day.
Local councils have also been given powers to hand out on-the-spot fines to fly-tippers, making it easier for vehicles suspected of being used for fly-tipping to be stopped, searched and seized.