Agency cracks down on illegal waste sites

14th October 2013

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  • Pollution & Waste Management



The Environment Agency closed 1,100 sites that were illegally storing or disposing of waste during 2012-13, equivalent to shutting 25 illegal sites each week

The regulator has urged organisations to make sure their waste is being disposed of correctly after confirming that between 1 April 2012 and 31 March 2013 it shut down 1,100 illegal waste sites, up from 637 in 2011-12.

In its second annual report on waste crime in England, the agency reveals that waste from the construction and demolition sector continues to account for the highest proportion of illegally processed and dumped waste.

According to the agency, waste from the construction sector was present at 28% of illegal waste sites and 23% of large-scale illegal fly-tipping incidents. Commercial and household waste, meanwhile, was found at 24% of illegal waste sites.

The number of large illegal waste dumps closed by the agency in 2012-13 fell by almost 60% – from 262 incidents in 2011-12 to just 107. Of those, 23% were made up of commercial and household waste, 22% contained chemicals, oil or fuels and 5% included asbestos.

Ed Mitchell, director of environment and business at the agency, cited the regulator’s creation of a dedicated taskforce as key to its crackdown on illegal sites during 2012-13.

“Waste crime puts people and the environment at risk, and undermines the legitimate waste industry. We are taking tough action to deal with this problem, through the improved use of intelligence and stronger partnerships with the police and other enforcement bodies. The illegal waste sites taskforce has been hugely successful in slashing the number of illegal waste sites operating in England.”

While the closure of illegal waste sites increased dramatically during 2012-13, the agency’s figures reveal the number of successful prosecutions relating to waste offences fell by close to one-third.

During 2012-13, it completed 171 successful prosecutions, compared with 249 in 2011-12 and 262 in 2010-11. The agency cited its change in focus “from reacting to reports of crime to a proactive approach of targeting particular offenders” as the reason for the fall in prosecutions.

The figures also reveal that the average fine issued by the courts for waste offences during 2012-13 fell to £7,137 from £7,596 in the previous 12 months. Fines for waste offences totalled £827,940 in 2012-13, compared with £1.3 million in 2011-12, and the largest fine issued for a single waste offence was £75,000.

Penalties for waste offences in England and Wales are likely to increase from next year, under proposed new guidelines from the Sentencing Council. The guidelines suggest new levels of fines for waste disposal offences based on the level of harm caused, the culpability of the offender and the size of the organisation.

Under the proposals penalties for large firms will range from £125,000 to £2 million, for medium-sized firms they could reach a maximum of £690,000 and for small businesses up to £70,000.

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