On 26 February the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Welsh Government opened a joint consultation on new Regulations aimed at tackling waste crime which costs the UK over GBP 500 million per year.

What is ‘waste crime’?

‘Waste crime’ covers a wide-range of activities, including organised fly-tipping, illegal dumping of waste, illegal operation of waste management sites (such as non- compliance with permits) and the deliberate mis- description of waste to evade landfill tax.

Why have Defra opened a consultation?

The consultation follows a recent emphasis on the crackdown of waste crime by the Government, including Defra’s Waste Crime Action Plan which aims to bring about increased enforcement against waste crime and widens the EA’s powers in relation to this.

The latest figures from Defra show a 20% increase in the number of fly tipping incidents dealt with by Local Authorities, leading to a 24% increase in costs to almost GBP 60 million.

In September 2014, Defra minister Dan Rogerson confirmed the Government’s commitment to tackling waste crime in a letter to industry. The letter asked for responses to proposals to combat non-compliance with waste regulations. The proposals included:

  • Limiting the chance to appeal decisions to suspend environmental permits
  • Increasing EA intervention at poor performing sites
  • Improving co-ordination between the EA and HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) to deal with non- compliance linked to tax evasion

GBP 5 million in funding was also secured in the Spring Budget to tackle waste crime, but Local Authorities say the recent rise of fly tipping, following a decline in previous years, illustrates the impact of council cutbacks and more help is needed to fight waste crime..

The above initiatives in conjunction with this consultation aim to bring about speedier and tougher enforcement approaches to reduce waste crime.

What is in the consultation?

The consultation is split into two parts. Part one seeks comments on proposals to enhance regulators’ powers and part two calls for evidence on further enforcement actions that could be taken to cut down on waste crime.

The aim of any new Regulations which result from the consultation is to make it easier for the EA and other regulating authorities to prosecute waste crime offenders by enhancing their existing enforcement powers. The proposals outlined in part one include:

  • Suspend site licences where there is risk of harm or pollution or an operator has failed to meet the conditions of an Enforcement Notice
  • Issue Notices which require action to prevent the breach of a permit getting worse
  • The EA will be given increased powers of intervention at sites which are believed to be at risk of non-compliance due to poor performance
  • Regulators will be able to take physical steps to stop waste entering sites that are not complying with their permits
  • Waste sites will be charged for the clean-up costs of any illegal waste

The proposals in the consultation aim to allow regulators to take ‘swift enforcement action’ before a situation develops that poses a significant risk to the environment and to reduce harm to local communities.

Part 2 calls for evidence on:

  • Fixed penalty notices for fly-tipping
  • Operator competence – to include technical competence, operator performance record, relevant convictions, and management systems
  • Options to address abandoned or orphaned waste management sites
  • Powers to recharge for pollution works

What are the views on this consultation?

Commenting on the upcoming consultation, Dan Rogerson stated: “Waste crime blights communities and we support the Environment Agency in taking swift, tough enforcement action against those who flout the law or operate to poor standards”.

He also said “I am determined that we see those responsible properly held to account for the damage they inflict on local communities”.

Sam Corp, head of regulation at the Environmental Services Association (ESA) has also commented: “It is encouraging that there does now appear to be a genuine desire by Government and other stakeholders to tackle this issue”.

The consultation closes on 6 May 2015. We will provide an update once responses to the consultation have been gathered and results have been published.

To access the consultation document, please use the following link.