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EA reaches illegal waste site target in 2021/22

The Environment Agency recently published its ‘Annual report and accounts for the financial year 2021 to 2022’, including its performance report, which highlights how, at the end of the financial year, the target to reduce the number of high-risk illegal waste sites was achieved, with a reduction of 194 against the target of 200.


EA reaches illegal waste site target in 2021/22 f

The report states that ‘during the year the Environment Agency, along with Defra and HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), was asked to contribute to an investigation into the government’s actions to combat waste crime in England, being undertaken by the National Audit Office (NAO). The NAO’s report was published in April 2022 and makes some recommendations for all parties. The main recommendations for the Environment Agency relate to improved metrics. This is an area that we were already working on, and we shall continue to do so in 2022-23. More information can be found here: Investigation into government’s actions to combat waste crime in England – National Audit Office (NAO) Report9

Whilst the performance status remains green, we continue to be cautious about these results due to the transition out of the pandemic, which has impacted on reporting levels and site substantiation. The true number of illegal sites is likely to be greater and we anticipate it to increase over the coming year.”

Under the Tackling persistent waste criminals case study section of the report, the Environment Agency states that it estimates around 34 million tonnes of waste is illegally managed every year, enough to fill Wembley Stadium 30 times. Costing the economy an estimated £1 billion a year with perpetrators involved in other serious crimes like drug dealing. 

Their goal for waste crime is very simple, to stop it. At the end of this financial year, the EA had reduced the number of active high-risk illegal waste sites to 194, against a target of 200, stopping a total of 561 sites during the 12-month period. The following are some of their success stories:

  • In April 2021, as part of a major investigation into an organised crime group dumping and burying thousands of tonnes of illegal waste at sites across the Midlands, we conducted a joint operation with the police; five search warrants were executed at properties belonging to the group; significant amounts of evidence and cash were recovered; all five suspects were arrested; and the police are investigating several other offences, including firearms and drugs
  • Five years after we secured the conviction of a Darlington man for illegal dumping of waste at a farm in County Durham, we went back to court to challenge his failure to pay back £350,000 under the Proceeds of Crime Act. He has now been jailed for three years
  • Our enforcement officers swooped on a farm in Worcestershire where a man received a 26- month prison sentence in 2018 for operating an illegal waste site where he dumped, buried, or burned 25,000 tonnes of waste. This time we found and seized several stolen vehicles, now the subject of a criminal investigation by West Mercia Police
  • The operator of an illegal waste site in the North East was given a 12-month custodial sentence and served with a Notice by the courts to clear all remaining waste. This followed an investigation in 2020 in response to numerous fires and the dumping of large quantities of waste. We stopped activity on site using a Restriction Order, one of our newer powers issued by the courts.


To read the full report, go to


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Owain Griffiths

Owain Griffiths

Head of Circular Economy at Volvo Cars

Owain joined Volvo Cars in June 2021 to lead Circular Economy in the Global Sustainability Team. The company has committed to being a circular business by 2040 and has financial, recycled content and CO2 based targets for 2025, all of which Owain is working across the company to make happen. Owain previously worked for circular economy consultancy Oakdene Hollins where he advised businesses on evidence led circular economy implementation. 

Turning into a circular business and the importance of vehicle reuse and recycling.

The presentation will cover the work Volvo Cars is doing to achieve 2025 but mainly focus on the transformational work towards 2040 and the business and value chain changes being considered. Attention will be paid to the way vehicles are being dealt with at the end of life and the complexities of closing material and component loops. Opportunities and challenges which Volvo Cars is facing will be presented including engagement with 3rd parties and increasing pressure from stakeholders.

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