At a Let’s Recycle and Environmental Services Association event on Tuesday, 12 April, Environment Agency Chief Executive Sir James Bevan gave a speech on cracking down on waste crime.
In his speech, he said: “Six years ago, I called waste crime “the new narcotics”: A few decades ago, it took a while for the authorities around the world to wake up to the damage drugs were doing and start to tackle the problem. As with drugs then, so with waste crime now. Today we are much clearer about the damage waste crime does to communities and to the economy, and we are now engaged in what will be a long struggle to nail the criminals. I’m here today to tell you how that’s going and how we intend to win this fight.”
He highlighted the seriousness of waste crime and the damage it causes to our society. He said that “waste crime is serious in itself because it causes widespread and significant harm: to people, places, the economy, to law and order, and to the environment.”
He said that not only does waste crime threaten “every community through its thuggish links to crime and its willingness to despoil the places where people live. It undermines investment, growth and jobs in the legitimate waste businesses which the Environmental Services Association represents.” He added, “it costs our economy around a billion pounds a year.”
He said that waste crime is hard to tackle, and a reason for this is that it is attractive to organised criminals involved as the rewards are high. The chances of being caught are relatively low, and the penalties, if caught, are traditionally light. He said to win the fight against waste criminals lies in altering these facts to lessen the attraction for the criminal in the first place.
The EA estimates that “some 18% of waste is currently managed illegally at some point in the waste stream. That is around 34 million tonnes of waste every year,” which is increasing according to Sir Bevan.
Sir Bevan said their new approach to tackling waste crime is “very simple: stop it.”
He said that the EA tended to focus more on the waste than on the criminal in the past. This made sense as the EA’s job is to protect the environment and the communities blighted by the waste. But he said, “by focusing on the crime, we were tackling the symptom, not the cause. The better, proactive approach to stopping the crime for good is to stop the criminal and deter future offenders.”
He said that their new strategy targets the criminals themselves. It is based on the so-called 4 Ps, which also guide the work of the police and others who tackle serious crime or terrorism:
- prepare to fight waste crime by gathering the evidence and intelligence necessary to do so.
- prevent waste crime by seeking to deter or disrupt it before it occurs.
- protect the environment, communities and business from the harm it does, focusing on the crimes that do the most damage.
- pursue the criminals, focusing on those who act deliberately and do the most harm.
And to ensure the EA do that, they are now using the same system as the police, the immigration authorities and financial investigators to decide on their priorities – the Home Office’s MORILE (Management of Risk in Law Enforcement) scoring.
So far, they have had some success. One such example is “in July 2021 enforcement officers from the Environment Agency swooped on a farm in Worcestershire which is the business address of a man who received a 26-month prison sentence in 2018 for operating an illegal waste site there where he dumped, buried or burned 25,000 tonnes of waste. This time we found and seized a number of stolen vehicles, now the subject of a criminal investigation by West Mercia Police.”
And Bevan said: “over the last several months, behind the scenes, we have been refusing more environmental permits based on operator competence to stop waste criminals securing a place in the industry.”
He said, to “win against the criminals, we need to be tough on waste crime, with better knowledge, more resources, tougher deterrents; and tough on the causes of waste crime, with smarter policies that keep one step ahead of criminals, shut them out of the system and move us towards an economy in which there is no space for waste crime.”
In his conclusion, Bevan said: “With our partners, with the support of the legitimate waste industry and the backing of the public, we are aiming to do just that. We are doing it by bearing down on the criminals and by removing the elements in the system which allow them to commit waste crime.”
To read the full speech, go to www.gov.uk