Task force blitz on illegal waste operators in the East of England

The Environment Agency targeted illegal waste sites across the East of England in a first nationwide targeted action yesterday (27 Mar).

A specialist environmental crime team set up cameras, carried out stop checks at scrap yards and gathered information at known unpermitted sites to disrupt the flow of waste to illegal sites.

The Illegal Waste Sites Taskforce (IWST) was set up to blitz illegal waste sites in England and Wales over two years and already, one year on, more than 1,135 have been closed down or brought into regulation by the Agency, working closely with local authorities and the police.

As information is gathered more have been identified and work is ongoing to close them down or regulate them as well.

In the last three months of 2012 Agency staff in the East of England closed down 14 sites protecting legitimate recycling and waste disposal businesses and local communities. There were still 169 known illegal waste sites in the region at the end of the year.

Evidence gathered yesterday will be reviewed in the next few days to revisit sites or ramp up enforcement action.

Environment agency manager Kevin Rutterford said the aim behind the day of action was to raise awareness of the specialist team and to enable anyone with information to share it.

“We worked with landowners known to be targets for the illegal storage and disposal of waste to help them to help us track down the perpetrators, said. They are often the victims of this type of crime and it can cost them a lot of money to have the waste removed.

“We also visited known waste producers to remind them to check the destination of their waste and worked with local authority planning teams to identify demolition sites to check where the waste is going,” he said.

Illegal waste sites can pose a real threat to the environment, contaminating land and rivers with oil and toxic chemicals. They can also pose a risk to human health and blight communities, threatening air quality with toxic fumes from illegally burnt materials and by causing noise and odour problems from operations near homes and schools.

The Environment Agency has identified that many illegal waste sites are within 50 metres of schools, homes or sensitive environmental sites. Identifying the sites and closing them can often involve complex investigations and legal action and up to £5million has been allocated for the IWST for the first two years.

“Illegal waste operators undercut legitimate business and we want to make sure serious waste crime doesn’t pay. Our specialist crime teams catch criminals and confiscate the assets they’ve gained from crime,” said Mr Rutterford.

Under the Proceeds of Crime Act the Environment Agency has already been granted court orders to recoup £1million from offenders.

During the day of action officers collected information and handed out calling cards and leaflets explaining the effects of serious waste crime on people and the environment. They also spoke to carriers about their responsibilities and gathered information on what is happening to waste and where it is going.

The new taskforce, which includes former police detectives, is part of the Environment Agency’s continued action to combat serious, organised waste crime. Increasingly, those involved in waste crime are often involved in other criminal activities such as drugs and theft.

Tips for homeowners

• Be wary of people or businesses offering cheap rubbish removal. You must have your waste removed by a registered waste carrier. Take their registration number and check with the Environment Agency that it is valid by calling 03708 506 506.

• Keep an eye out for illegal waste sites. Look for suspicious behaviour such as activity through the night, increased numbers of lorries entering a site or smoke from fires. Sites should have an authorisation sign at their entrance. f you’ve got information on serious waste crime, report it. Call our incident hotline on 0800 80 70 60 or report it anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Tips for businesses

• Be wary of people or businesses offering cheap rubbish removal. You must have your waste removed by a registered waste carrier. Check with the Environment Agency that your carrier’s registration is valid – call us on 03708 506 506. Complete waste transfer notes to document and describe all waste you transfer – remember you’ve got to keep them for two years.

• Don’t let your waste escape and affect the environment – store and transport it appropriately and securely.

•Know where your waste is going – use the NetRegs Waste Directory to find licensed recycling and waste disposal sites in your area.

• Know what your responsibilities are if you produce, store or transport and dispose of business waste – this is your duty of care. See our guidance for more information.