The number of people sent to prison for committing serious waste crime offences has almost trebled in the last three years, a new Environment Agency report reveals.
The Environment Agency’s first Annual Waste Crime Report shows that organised gangs continue to have a blatant disregard for communities, dumping waste in towns and cities and using areas around motorways to run large-scale illegal waste operations.
The report also reveals that 335 individuals and companies were successfully prosecuted in 2011 for serious waste offences as the Environment Agency continues cracking down on big-time waste offenders.
Cracking down on waste crime
The Environment Agency is also urging people to help prevent waste getting into the wrong hands by reporting waste crime to its incident hotline, or anonymously to Crimestoppers.
‘Cracking down on waste crime’ shows that 16 people were handed custodial sentences last year for major waste crimes including running large-scale illegal waste sites and industrial-scale dumping. Among them was businessman Carl Steele who dumped over one million tyres across England, causing environmental damage and undercutting legitimate tyre recyclers. Just six offenders were sent to prison in 2009.
In addition, new figures show a rise in the number and size of financial penalties handed out to waste criminals. Last year, the courts issued £1.7million in fines for serious waste offences – nearly £800,000 more than the previous year. The highest single fine issued in 2011 was £170,000 – three-and-a-half times more than the biggest fine served in 2010.
The courts also ordered a total £2.2million-worth of assets to be confiscated from criminals who had made money through illegal waste activity. Among the 26 Proceeds of Crime Act prosecutions brought by the Environment Agency in 2011 was a Crown Court order against a Berkshire businessman who ran an illegal waste company to pay back over £800,000. The Environment Agency has 132 waste-related financial investigations ongoing.
But while there is definite progress in tackling serious waste crime, the report also highlights a number of challenges including a rise in the number of serious incidents related to the dumping of construction and demolition waste.
And while more than 750 large-scale illegal waste sites were shut down in the past year, the number of sites detected has continued to grow because of increased intelligence developed by the Environment Agency’s new £5million Illegal Waste Sites Taskforce.
A blight on communities
Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman said: “Illegal waste sites are a blight on our communities which I am determined to root out. The new Illegal Waste Site Taskforce funded by Defra means these criminals have nowhere to hide and we will be relentless in tracking them down. These criminals should know we are coming for them and they will feel the full force of the law.”
The Head of the Environment Agency's National Environmental Crime Team Andrew Higham said: “Waste crime can cause pollution, pose risks to people’s health and undercut legitimate businesses. We’ve stepped up the fight and we are increasingly seeing waste offenders being made to pay for their crimes.
“But we are not complacent and there is more to do particularly around cracking down on illegal waste sites. Our new Taskforce will help us break this cycle. However, we can’t do it on our own. We need everyone to play their part in helping to tackle waste crime.”
Report waste crime
As well as asking to see a skip hire company’s registration certificate, people can report waste crime to the Environment Agency on 0800 80 70 60 or anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
Businesses and local authorities should check with their contractor how they dispose of waste, understand what permissions the contractor has and, most importantly, what the permissions mean and report and share information about illegal waste activity with the Environment Agency.
Recent Environment Agency waste crime prosecutions