Waste crime costs top £600m a year

WASTE crime in England costs the industry and taxpayers £604m a year, with weak regulations creating gaps for illegal operations, according to new research.

The study, Rethinking Waste Crime, says regulations have not kept up with the rapidly evolving waste sector and the emergence of using waste as a resource for recycling and recovery has “opened up gaps that can be exploited”.

The most serious forms of waste crime include illegal sites, inaccurately describing waste, illegal export, illegal burning, flytipping and serious breaches of permit conditions.

Highlighting weak regulations, the report noted that anyone can obtain a licence to carry waste by paying a small fee online with minimal checks; waste carriers or sites that operate under exemptions, rather than proper waste permits, are rarely inspected; and there is no way to track commercial waste from its production to end destination.

In addition to tighter regulations, it calls for increased enforcement, industry-wide bans for serious and repeat offenders, and seizing criminals’ profits to create a new source of funding for the Environment Agency. 

The report was commissioned by the Environmental Services Association and charity the Environmental Services Association Education Trust.

Mick Brown, managing director of report author Eunomia, said: “Regulators have been under-resourced and encouraged to take a light-touch approach in order to be business friendly. Ironically, this is actually harming the interests of legitimate waste businesses while giving criminals an easy ride.

“The solution isn’t to abandon the progress we’ve made, but to modernise regulation to support our increasingly circular economy.”