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EA publishes 2020/2021 report with waste crime summary

The Environment Agency has today published ‘Research and analysis – Regulating for people, the environment and growth, 2020’. The report looks at their approach to regulation, which includes, illegal waste sites, waste crime and illegal waste exports.


EA publishes 2020/2021 report with waste crime summary f

During 2020/2021, the EA found 621 new illegal waste sites and stopped illegal waste activity at 722 sites. At the end of March 2021, 470 known illegal waste sites were still active.

For illegal waste exports, the EA inspected 1,719 containers of waste in the financial year 2020 to 2021, a figure comparable to 2019 and still almost twice the number which they inspected in 2018. Of these, 176 containers of waste were returned to their site of loading which, combined with our regulatory intervention at waste sites, prevented the illegal export of over 11,000 tonnes of waste.

The report states: “As with all our 2020 data, the illegal waste site figures must be viewed with consideration to the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic on our operational capabilities.”

There were 96 serious incidents caused by illegal waste activities in 2020, compared with 79 incidents in 2019 and 81 incidents in 2018. Two-thirds were attributed to illegal waste sites. The 2020 figure is the highest number of illegal waste serious pollution incidents since 2016 when there were 95 incidents.

The cost of waste crime in England to the legitimate waste industry and the taxpayer was estimated to be £924 million in 2018/19. This is a significant increase from the previously estimated costs of waste crime of £604 million in 2015.

In the financial year 2020 to 2021, the EA brought prosecutions against 12 companies and individuals for waste crime offences. This resulted in total fines exceeding £417,000.

The average cost of closing an illegal waste site more than doubled between 2014 and 2018, from £3,700 to £8,300 per site. This is the result of the increasingly complex nature of waste crime.

The EA now work with Nominet who are able to stop illegal operators using the internet to secure business. This upstream intervention stops waste criminals before they cause significant impact to the environment and communities.

The EA has joined the Waste Compliance Taskforce (WACT); a collaborative cross-sector group working to improve awareness of and compliance with waste regulations and to increase resilience to waste crime.

At the end of March 2021, the number of active illegal waste sites was the lowest we have seen, with the number of high-risk sites lower than our target for the year. As we return to ‘normal’ we may see an increase in the number of illegal waste sites, of which a proportion will be high risk.

EA publishes 2020/2021 report with waste crime summary p one
Sir James Bevan

In the report, Sir James Bevan, Chief Executive of the Environment Agency said:

“the scourge of waste crime continues with more than 400 illegal waste sites still active.”

Making reference to the UN climate conference COP26 in Glasgow this November, Bevan said:

“All eyes will be on the new targets and ambitions world leaders bring to the table to protect our planet.” and “if we want to stop the surge of climate chaos, we need to empower regulators to regulate well, support all those businesses that do the right thing and go after those who don’t, one by one.”

To view the full report, go to

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