Waste crime costs England £600m a year
Waste crime in England incurs losses to the legitimate waste industry and the taxpayer of
£604 million a year, according to a new report commissioned by the Environmental Services
Association Educational Trust (ESAET) and the Environmental Services Association.
Supported by the ‘Right Waste Right Place’ campaign, and written by environmental
consultancy Eunomia, the report uncovers that the growing cost of waste crime is now
equivalent to building 34 new secondary schools or paying for 4,137 NHS hospital beds per
Launched today at the House of Commons, Rethinking Waste Crime highlights that illegal
waste operators blight local communities, damage the environment, harm legitimate
businesses and deprive the government of tax revenue.
The research shows the waste sector, which adds £6.6 billion of value to the UK economy,
has changed beyond all recognition in the last two decades and regulation has not kept up.
A new waste management system that allows society to use waste as a resource for
recycling and recovery has opened up gaps that can be exploited.
Rethinking Waste Crime found the majority of waste crime is associated with waste from
businesses, not from households. It suggests most serious waste crime falls into one of six
categories: illegal waste sites, inaccurately describing waste, illegal export of waste, illegal
burning of waste, fly tipping and serious breaches of permit conditions.
The report stresses that weak regulation is a major cause of waste crime: for example,
anyone can obtain a licence to carry waste by paying a small online fee, and through
minimal checks; waste carriers or sites that operate under exemptions (instead of proper
waste permits) are rarely inspected; and there is no way to track commercial waste from its
production through to its end destination.
Suggesting there is no simple fix, Rethinking Waste Crime recommends a package of
changes that will modernise England’s out of date waste management system, including
tightening up regulation of areas that are barely regulated, increasing enforcement, banning
serious and repeat offenders from the sector, and securing new sources of funding from
criminals for the Environment Agency.
Jacob Hayler, Executive Director at the Environmental Services Association said: “Despite
additional funding for regulators and stronger enforcement powers, waste crime is more
entrenched than ever. Clearly, we need a different approach which targets the underlying
causes of crime in our sector and which roots out the prevailing culture which allows waste
crime to flourish. This report highlights the weakness in the current regime and puts
forward ambitious recommendations aimed at stopping waste crime once and for all.”
Mike Brown, Managing Director from 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.”