More illegal waste sites have been closed down by the Environment Agency in the East of England in the last year than ever before over the same period of time.
New ways of detecting, logging information and education have led crime teams to stop almost half of illegal sites from continuing to run in a year of targeted intelligence-led action.
During the year 140 illegal waste sites were stopped across seven counties in the East of England by enforcement teams. They either closed them down or helped them follow rules, designed to protect the environment and not cause a nuisance to neighbours.
The Agency’s second annual Waste Crime Report shows that 25 illegal waste sites are shut down each week. Chief Executive Paul Leinster says: “Over the past year we have considerably improved our understanding of the nature and scale of waste crime. We have closed down substantially more illegal waste sites than in previous years.”
As they carried out their work, Environment Agency officers have also uncovered a further 157 sites in the east of England and at the end of March 2013 only 135 are still active.
“We are now targeting these newly uncovered sites to stop them also from blighting communities and causing pollution. Our goal is to reduce the number of illegal waste sites operating across the country by 10% year on year,” said East of England Environment Manager Kevin Rutterford.
“In this region alone we have achieved a 49% reduction in the number of sites operating illegally and we are working hard to target the rest.”
Old vehicles, household and commercial rubbish, and construction waste are involved in most of the illegal activity.
There were 39 successful prosecutions in the year for waste offences across the East of England with fines issued by the courts totalling £145,995, one person being sent to prison and two others receiving suspended prison sentences. One person was fined £34,985.
“The courts take environmental crime very seriously and penalties can be quite high but what we would like to see are sites operating within the law to deal with waste,” said Mr Rutterford.
“Many people involved in waste crime are also involved in other illegal activities so we work closely with the police, HM Revenue and Customs, the Borders Agency, Interpol, VOSA and the Department of Work and Pensions,” he added.
Legitimate waste businesses report that they are being undercut by these illegal sites, which can offer waste collection, treatment and disposal at cheaper prices than their competitors, but which have no intention of disposing of this waste safely. It is estimated that waste crime diverts as much as £1bn every year from legitimate businesses and HM Treasury.
Some of the major crimes stopped this year include illegal exports, serious dumping incidents and illegal waste sites where waste is burnt or and buried with no environmental safeguards in place. Illegal waste sites can cause misery for local communities with infestations of flies, acrid smoke and ugly piles of waste affecting homes and quality of life. They can also lead to serious pollution incidents.
The report also shows that most illegal waste sites are now shut down within 12 months.
But there is still more to be done – and the report also reveals that:
• The majority of illegal waste sites are still clustered around towns, cities and key motorway links.
• Construction and demolition waste continues to be a problem – with construction waste present at over 25 per cent of illegal waste sites and 23 per cent of large scale illegal waste dumping incidents.
• Scrap cars are found at a quarter of all illegal waste sites, and there were a significant number of serious waste dumps involving chemical drums, oil or fuel.
• The courts confiscated over £1.3 million last year from waste criminals under the Proceeds of Crime Act.