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UK: Nationwide ‘day of action’ as part of crack down on illegal waste sites (27th March)

Environment Agency Taskforce cuts off supply to rogue waste traders, gives out warnings and starts over a dozen new investigations

Roadside 'Illegal Waste' Waste Carriers' inspections
Environment Agency Taskforce cuts off supply to rogue waste traders, gives out warnings and starts over a dozen new investigations.

A Taskforce on a mission to stop illegal waste sites, that undercut legitimate business and blight local communities, has been surprising suspects and intervening at risky sites in the first nationwide targeted action on illegal waste sites.

Sites that covertly hold toxic waste and chemicals without safeguards are breaking the law and risk causing serious pollution incidents that damage rivers, habitats and pose a risk to human health.

Over 100 Environment Agency (EA) officers visited over 60 sites aiming to disrupt illegal dealings and check if sites posed a risk to surrounding communities.
  • The EA carried out visits and roadside stop and searches of vehicles with Police, Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA), BTP, local authorities, HMRC & Trading Standards.
  • In the North West aerial reconnaissance was used to check for activity at suspected illegal sites.

  • In the North East metal scrap yards where illegal dismantling of vehicles was suspected were visited with Police.

  • In the South of England investigators targeted major development & construction projects following construction waste being identified as the biggest illegal waste problem.

  • In the South West officers made surprise visits to sites suspected as being in the illegal waste chain.

  • In the South East 'conveyor belt' style road-side checks took place on approaches to hot-spot industrial estates.

  • Forensic technique SmartWater was used to mark waste, to prove whether waste ends up dumped or exported and support future EA prosecutions.
Ongoing blitz

The day of action comes as part of an ongoing blitz on illegal waste sites by the Environment Agency's recently created specialist Taskforce.

In 2012 the Environment Agency stopped 1135 illegal sites, protecting legitimate recycling and waste disposal businesses and local communities. Illegal sites can cause serious pollution incidents, bad smells, chemical spills, blight on the landscape, and misery for surrounding communities. In the coming days EA staff will be reviewing evidence to revisit sites or ramp up enforcement action.

Mat Crocker, Head of Illegals and Waste, said:
'Illegal waste sites undercut legitimate business, can cause severe damage to the environment and misery for local residents. We are determined to make life hard for criminals. Our day of action should send a clear message to legitimate business that we are supporting them by and disrupting and stopping the criminal element.
'The Environment Agency has specialist teams who work in partnership with the Police and agencies like Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) and HMRC to tackle waste crime. But everyone can play their part by reporting waste crime to us or Crimestoppers.'

You can report suspected waste crime to the Environment Agency incident hotline 0800 807060 or anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Flickr: Images of the nationwide 'day of action'

Key investigation facts
  • The Environment Agency has a target to reduce the number of sites by 50% by 2015.

  • The Environment Agency set up the Taskforce in December 2011 so that a dedicated team could blitz the problem of illegal waste sites.

  • In 2012 the EA stopped 1135 illegal sites, closing them, taking enforcement action or advising them change practices and operate legally.

  • During 2012 the taskforce helped tracked down 1175 illegal sites and they increased the rate they were shut down.
  • Identifying the sites and blocking their activities, closing them or prosecutions can often involve complex investigations and
  • Stop and Searches were done to check for criminal activity and provide us with an opportunity to make both carriers and operators aware of their responsibilities to ensure waste is taken to legitimate waste sites.

  • The Environment Agency often finds a link between waste criminals and other forms of organised crime and fraud. While targeting sites and doing spot checks the EA brought along teams from Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) who checked vehicles.

  • In the North West special tactics were used to check whether illegal trading is going on. One of the methods is using SmartWater that can be sprayed onto rubbish and waste to prove whether it ends up illegally dumped or exported.

SmartWater website

Waste Crime Report

Annual 2012 Waste Crime Report

Legal powers and partnerships

The EA gained new powers in 2012 to check the records of owners of scrap sites and end-of-life vehicles to identify possible routes for metal theft, refuse permits on this basis and flag activities to British Transport Police.

The EA will be sharing information from their investigations with police, HMRC and other enforcement organisations.