Environment Agency: Join the fight against waste crime

The Environment Agency is urging businesses and the public to help in the fight against waste crime

Waste crime is a blight on our communities and environment. From blatant examples like fly-tipping rubbish by the roadside to environmental permit breaches and money-laundering, these activities can endanger people’s safety and undermine legitimate waste businesses.

On top of that, waste crime costs the economy in England an estimated £1 billion per year – that’s the same as the combined starting salary of over 38,000 newly-qualified nurses.

The Environment Agency, as England’s environmental regulator, is at the frontline of the fight against rogue operators and organised criminals.

We’re determined to stop this problem and, working with the police and other government agencies, we’ve acted. In the year to September 2023, we:

  • Closed 518 illegal waste sites
  • Brought 32 prosecutions against waste criminals
  • Imposed fines and costs of over £580,000

This year we have taken the fight to criminals with coordinated operations – such as Operation Lyceum, Operation Iris and Operation Angola) – collaborating with the police, HMRC and others to monitor dubious waste sites, stop and check lorries, and seize stolen or hazardous cargoes.

That action has been backed up by changes in government policy to beef up the powers that regulators and local authorities have to take on these criminals. Councils can now impose bigger fines for littering and fly-tipping. Grants of £775,000 have been paid to councils trialling new approaches to waste crime. And government has committed to reforming the carriers, brokers, dealers system to improve regulation and enforcement of operators in the waste industry. The Environment Agency will also launch a new team in the early 2024 dedicated to tackling money laundering in the waste industry.

Those that pollute the environment – including waste criminals – also face unlimited penalties under new legislation. The current limit of £250,000 on variable monetary penalties that the Environment Agency can impose directly on operators is to be lifted, offering regulators a quicker method of enforcement than lengthy and costly criminal prosecutions – although the most serious cases will continue to be taken through criminal proceedings.

But we need your help. Only 25% of waste crime incidents are reported to the Environment Agency – and without those reports, it’s harder for us to identify where crimes have been committed and where we need to act.

Those working in the industry often have the expertise to recognise when something isn’t right or they may know the offenders themselves. It’s essential to report any potential incidents to help us carry out enforcement effectively.

Emma Viner, Enforcement & Investigations Manager at the Environment Agency, said:

"Waste criminals’ toxic actions put us all in danger every time they break the law, which is why we need the help of everyone in the waste sector to drive them out of business.

"Just a quarter of waste crimes are reported to the Environment Agency, making it more difficult to know when and where we need to act. So, if you know or suspect illegal waste activity is taking place, you should tell us and we can continue our work to stop rogue operators and organised criminals in their tracks and force them to face justice."

This won’t be an easy fight – but with the support of partners across the waste industry the Environment Agency is determined to keep one step ahead of the criminals, shut them out of the system and move us towards an economy in which there is no space for waste crime.

If you know or suspect illegal waste activity is taking place, report it anonymously to Crimestoppers through their dedicated website or by calling 0800 555 111. Our 24-hour incident hotline is also available on 0800 80 70 60.

If you work in waste disposal, check you have the right permits in place: Waste: environmental permits - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Environment Agency