New steps to tackle illegal waste announced

New steps have been announced to tackle the problem of waste crime are to be granted, and further action opened for consultation in a crack-down on illegal sites, the Environment Minister has announced.

New powers are to be introduced for the Environment Agency (EA) to lock the gates or block access to problem waste sites to prevent thousands of tonnes of waste illegally building up. The powers will also enable the EA to force operators to clear all the waste at a problem waste site, not just the illegal waste.

The government has also launched a new consultation to tackle crime and poor performance in the waste sector. Proposals include raising the bar required to hold EA waste permits, and putting a stop to criminals hiding their illegal activities by requiring them to register low-risk waste operations which are currently exempt from the need to hold a permit.

The consultation proposes improving awareness amongst householders, so people can check on the E website to see if the recipient of their waste is licensed to take their waste, or their duty to pass waste to legitimate carriers.

It also suggests providing local authorities with the option of finding those whose waste ends up fly-tipped or illegally dumped rather than having to pursue them through the courts.

Latest statistics show that some of the worst hit areas include London and the North West of England.

More than 850 new illegal waste sites were discovered by the EA in 2016-17. While an average of two illegal waste sites are shut down every day, they continue to create severe problems for local communities and business as well as posing a risk to key national infrastructure.

The new powers for the EA to tackle problem waste sites will be introduced by spring 2018, subject to parliamentary approval.

Thérèse Coffey, Environment Minister, said: “Waste crime and fly-tipping blight our communities and spoil our countryside, and we need determined action to tackle it.

“These new powers for the Environment Agency will curb the rise of waste sites that continue to operate outside the law.

“But we must all take responsibility for our waste to make sure it does not end up in the hands of criminals who will wilfully dump it. Our new consultation looks more widely at the waste sector and we are keen to hear from industry and the public how we can improve performance, tackle illegality and protect our precious environment.”

Emma Howard Boyd, chair of the Environment Agency, said: “We take tough action against anyone involved in illegal waste activity and last year, the Environment Agency closed down two illegal waste sites every day. We welcome these new powers, which will enable our teams to block access to problem sites, preventing illegal waste building up and becoming even more serious.

“This will allow us to take faster action against criminals and will make a real difference to communities, but everyone has a role to play. We all need to check our waste is going to the right place and is handled by the right people.”

Dr Colin Church, CIWM chief executive, commented: "On the front line, regulators need to be able to act much more quickly. Allowing them to shut down illegal sites and stop rogue operators in their tracks will help to tackle or avoid major polluting incidents like the Waste4Fuel site in Kent or the massive Mobuoy Road dump in Northern Ireland that blight communities and cost the public purse millions of pounds. In the longer term, we need to weed out the cowboys and those who are using loopholes in the current regulatory regime, and raising the bar on competency and reviewing the exemptions system are good places to start. CIWM would like to see more, however.

"One of the real weaknesses of our current framework is a lack of focus on waste carriers, brokers and dealers, who can register for very little cost, with no requirement to demonstrate technical competence and few, if any, inspections. The focus on householder Duty of Care is also welcome. Local authorities deal with nearly a million fly-tipping incidents a year and around two-thirds of these involve household waste. We need to choke off the supply of waste to illegal operators by improving awareness and ensuring that those who deliberately flout their responsibilities are penalised.”

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