Waste crime costs surge by over 50% in just three years

23rd July 2021

Web fly tipping credit istock 898541532

Related Topics

Related tags

  • Waste ,
  • England ,
  • Environmental Agencies ,
  • UK government



The total cost of waste crime in England has increased by 53% in just three years, and now costs the country nearly £1bn annually, a recent study has uncovered.

In a report published yesterday, the Environmental Services Association (ESA) reveals that the cost of waste-related crime in England rose from £604m in 2015 to more than £924m in 2018/19.

When the available data for England is scaled and applied to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the estimated cost to the UK rises to well above £1bn.

The two most costly forms of waste crime to England’s economy are fly-tipping, which has risen from £209m to over £392m annually since 2015, and the operation of illegal waste sites, which accounts for an estimated £236m, up from £98m.

The researchers said that there has been an increase in the number of recorded waste crime incidents taking place across the country, which can range from fly-tipping, illegal dumping and uncontrolled burning of rubbish, through to major export fraud and tax evasion.

This come after a recent national YouGov poll found that just 46% of people know what their legal responsibilities are for waste disposal, and that 70% are unaware that they could be prosecuted if they fail to make the required checks and their waste ends up being fly-tipped by a third party.

“Waste criminals are exploiting a lack of public awareness and lack of regulatory oversight in this area, which has led to an increase in fly-tipping and illegal waste sites,” said Gavin Graveson, chair of the ESA.

“Although understandably delayed by the pandemic, it is now vital that the government proceeds at pace with long-promised reforms of the regulatory regime and we must make it much harder for criminals to operate in the recycling and waste sector.”

Total costs identified in the study are based on the impact to the public sector (such as loss of tax), costs to the private sector (such as loss of revenues) and costs to the wider environment, offset by any revenue arising from fines and any value in recovered waste.

In response, the ESA report calls on the government to:

  • Tighten the entry requirements for waste carriers, brokers and dealers to prevent criminals from accessing the sector
  • Bolster duty of care enforcement to stop criminals from being able to access, store or process waste illegally
  • Increase funding for the Environment Agency and Joint Unit for Waste Crime (JUWC) in the longer term – the Environment Agency’s current waste crime enforcement budget is just 3% of the total cost of dealing with consequences of waste crime
  • Introduce new waste crime reporting to better record and track the scale and impact of waste crime across the country
  • Levy fines and penalties that better reflect both the considerable financial gains made by waste criminals and the significant harm caused to the environment and local communities.

Sam Taylor, principal consultant at Eunomia, which carried out the study for the ESA, said: “Waste crime is a blight on our neighbourhoods and environment. Our research has shown a worrying trend in increasing costs of waste crime when the government is working hard to promote resource efficiency and move towards a more circular economy in England.

“It’s absolutely vital that waste crime is monitored accurately and the waste sector is supported by a robust regulatory regime.”

Image credit: iStock


Subscribe to IEMA's newsletters to receive timely articles, expert opinions, event announcements, and much more, directly in your inbox.

Transform articles

Fake news

Disinformation about the impossibility of averting the climate crisis is part of an alarming turn in denialist tactics, writes David Burrows

6th June 2024

Read more

Rivers and waterways across England and Wales are increasingly polluted by sewage spills. What is causing the crisis and what is being done to tackle it? Huw Morris reports

31st May 2024

Read more

In January, the Welsh government consulted on a proposed white paper, 'Securing a Sustainable Future: Environmental Principles, Governance and Biodiversity Targets for a Greener Wales'.

31st May 2024

Read more

Gillian Gibson calls for urgent action to avoid environmental tipping points

20th May 2024

Read more

Support for net zero remains high across the UK and the EU, but the majority of citizens don't believe that major emitters and governments will reach their climate targets in time.

16th May 2024

Read more

Media enquires

Looking for an expert to speak at an event or comment on an item in the news?

Find an expert

IEMA Cookie Notice

Clicking the ‘Accept all’ button means you are accepting analytics and third-party cookies. Our website uses necessary cookies which are required in order to make our website work. In addition to these, we use analytics and third-party cookies to optimise site functionality and give you the best possible experience. To control which cookies are set, click ‘Settings’. To learn more about cookies, how we use them on our website and how to change your cookie settings please view our cookie policy.

Manage cookie settings

Our use of cookies

You can learn more detailed information in our cookie policy.

Some cookies are essential, but non-essential cookies help us to improve the experience on our site by providing insights into how the site is being used. To maintain privacy management, this relies on cookie identifiers. Resetting or deleting your browser cookies will reset these preferences.

Essential cookies

These are cookies that are required for the operation of our website. They include, for example, cookies that enable you to log into secure areas of our website.

Analytics cookies

These cookies allow us to recognise and count the number of visitors to our website and to see how visitors move around our website when they are using it. This helps us to improve the way our website works.

Advertising cookies

These cookies allow us to tailor advertising to you based on your interests. If you do not accept these cookies, you will still see adverts, but these will be more generic.

Save and close