Waste crime costs England nearly a billion pounds a year

A new Environmental Services Association report has found that the total annual cost of waste-related crime in England has risen by 53 per cent in just three years.

The study shows that the cost of waste-related crime in England has grown exponentially, with costs rising from £604 million in 2015 to more than £924 million in 2018/19. When the available data  for England is scaled and applied to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland too, the estimated cost to the UK rises well above a billion pounds.

The Counting the cost of waste crime report reveals that the two most costly forms of waste crime to England’s economy are fly-tipping, which now exceeds £392 million (rising from £209 million in 2015)and the operation of illegal waste sites, which account for an estimated £236 million (up from £98 million in 2015).

Alongside the report, a recent national poll undertaken by YouGov for the ESA suggests the majority of British residents surveyed are unknowingly leaving themselves open to enforcement action through  alack of awareness of their legal duty of care for the safe disposal of their waste. This may result in a failure to undertake legal requirements when arranging for waste to be collected and disposed of by third parties other than their local council.  

Fewer than half (46 per cent or 947 respondents) of those surveyed knew what their legal responsibilities were for the proper disposal of their waste and 70 per cent (1430 respondents ) were not aware they could be personally prosecuted if they failed to make the required checks and their waste ended up being fly tipped by a third party.

Gavin Graveson, chair of the ESA, said: “Waste criminals are exploiting alack of public awareness and lack of regulatory oversight in this area, which has led to an increase in  fly-tipping  and  illegal  waste  sites that contribute significantly to the overall £924 million cost of waste crime in England identified in our report today. Successive ESA reports over the past eight years have highlighted the shocking extent of waste crime in the UK and  its cost to both the environment and economy. This latest report exposes the unfortunate  truth  that, despite additional regulatory focus in recent years, the scale of waste crime has significantly worsened. Although understandably delayed by the pandemic, it is now vital that the government proceeds at pace with long promised reforms of the regulatory regime and we must make it much harder for criminals to operate in the recycling and waste sector.” 

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