Environment Agency calls for collaborative crackdown on waste crime

The Environmental Services Association (ESA), and the Environment Agency (EA) have agreed to a new public-private collaborative approach to target illegal waste sites and improve the technical competence of the waste sector.

The ESA and the EA met with chief executives of resource and waste management companies to outline new priorities that will improve the environmental performance of the sector. Companies in the industry will be called upon to provide technical expertise to develop effective regulation that enables the EA to focus resources on poor-performing waste sites and “waste criminals” who are ignoring current disposal obligations.

“At a time when waste crime seems more entrenched than ever, it is vital that the regulator is able to trust ESA Members to do the right thing and focus its resources on criminals and poor performing operators,” ESA’s chairman Dr Stewart Davies said.

“The industry is an excellent source of technical expertise which will be made available to help the Agency deliver its objectives. This is a fine example of regulatory best practice which can be an example to other sectors.”

The waste collection and treatment sector has an annual turnover of around £11bn, and handles 27m tonnes of municipal waste each year. The sector can generate around 3.5% of the UK’s electricity consumption and 11% of the UK’s renewable electricity, through landfill gas, anaerobic digestion and energy from waste.

Despite municipal recycling rates rising from 12% in 2001 to more than 40% in 2011, both the EA and the ESA are hoping collaborative projects can crackdown on the laggards of the industry.

Proactive duty of care

Specific proposals of the joint-up discussions highlighted the need to refresh the EA’s approach to regulation to find the best ways to tackle specific issues on areas like waste fires and waste crime, which often occurs at the end of a supply chain because of failures in a Duty of Care by those at the beginning.

The partnership will focus on improving technical competence in the sector by ensuring that waste is handled by “suitably-trained personnel” at sites operated by companies with enough financial reserves to meet handling and disposal obligations.

The EA’s chief executive James Bevan added: “I’m extremely pleased to be strengthening our relationship with the ESA to raise standards across the sector and fight waste crime.

“We want to work with responsible operators to deliver more targeted regulations but also focus our resources on hitting the worst offenders which is good news for legitimate businesses, the economy and local communities. In addition, a more proactive approach to duty of care will plug weaknesses in the supply chain and prevent waste from leaking into the hands of criminals.”

The calls for collaboration come after it was revealed that England is losing out on £604m a year due to the damage caused by illegal waste operators on the legitimate waste industry.

In fact, Scotland’s environment agency warned the country’s industries and farmers that their waste and inefficiency is now the biggest threat to the environment, overtaking pollution.

Matt Mace

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