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Waste Dumping and Environmental Crime

The Primary Regulator dealing with Environmental crime, is the Environment Agency ( EA) currently led by Michael Gove, but local authorities also have a vital role to play with particular emphasis upon fly tipping and illegal waste dumping.

The primary legislation is s33 Environmental Protection Act 1990, but there are other situation and industry specific acts /regulations eg The Waste ( Household waste duty of care )(England and Wales) Regulations 2012- Clean Neighbourhood and Environmental Act 2008 to name but a few.

Perhaps the most effective legal development, was the publication of Sentencing Guidelines, by The Sentencing Council of England and Wales,in 2014, which in real terms has increased the level of fines 6 fold and custodial sentences for serious and serial offenders.This Guideline has serious bite.

The authorities have also adopted a civil recovery approach, seizing assets of those committing waste crime eg recently seizing a large lorry used by criminals to fly tip, in an attempt to disrupt this activity.Assets can also be restrained and pursued under various sections of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, though this is more likely to appeal to the EA rather than local authorities, the latter would not benefit by any of the monies recovered under POCA, because central government will receive the lions share of any of these recovered monies.

Waste crime costs the tax payer £600 million per annum,some £50 million is spent on cleaning up after fly –tippers alone. It also represents huge profits for professional waste criminals, which has attracted the attention of organised crime gangs and the NCA alike. At least 1000 illegal waste sites are identified per annum in the UK, Interpol suggests that this type of criminal activity delivers the same type of profits that the drug trafficking business used to attract.

As we know china has refused to accept the Wests waste any longer, so this issue is only going to become worse.The EA were given an additional £30 million to tackle the illegal dumping of waste, and as a result the agencies criminal prosecutions have reached their highest levels to date

Not only that but the various criminal and regulatory authorities are taking a wide approach to the prosecution of waste crime offences, so we have seen in 2018, prosecution s for fraud, money laundering, modern slavery, tax fraud offences( eg mis labelling of waste ) not just the more obvious offences under s33 of the 1990 leglislation.

New powers were brought in this year which allows the EA to block access to problem and illegal waste sites, to force clearance of those sites and for EA officers to wear body cameras to record evidence of waste dumping and abuse.

Of course we are not just talking about fly tipping household waste, which has increased as a result of landlords clearing their rental properties, illegal unlicensed operators dumping waste and the huge increase in charges levied by the local authorities,

Additionally..there was the scandal of a waste disposal company stockpiling hazardous medical waste, including body parts,but the illegal smuggling of waste on industrial scales to foreign countries eg Poland and China this year.

Defra published its independent review ( 14/11/2018 )into serious and organised crime in the waste sector after a major consultation was launched earlier in 2018. The interesting aspect to the review is that it looks at waste dumping from a criminal investigative and prosecutory perspective,and a joint agency approach.

That review made 10 conclusions :

  1. to establish a Joint Unit for waste crime
  2. strategic relationships to be established between the EA and PCCs
  3. EA to be given the necessary tools ( and presumably the funding ) to pursue and disrupt organised crime
  4. Waste sector leglislation should be amended for the same purpose as 3.
  5. introduction of mandatory electronic tracking of waste and establish a National data base of registered brokers
  6. the EA should have access to relevant police databases
  7. Registration and duty of care requirements for carriers, brokers,dealers should be reformed( including hazardous waste ) should be reformed
  8. Waste producers should be held accountable for the end destination of their products
  9. additional EA funding should be reviewed for consistency with plans for the Joint Unit..see 1.above
  10. Central Government should reform funding for the regulation and policing of the waste sector asap.

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