The EA’s annual report was released earlier this month on its regulatory activity. The report revealed that in 2021 alone the EA closed more than 550 illegal waste sites and uncovered almost 450 new waste management sites.
The report expressed the “endemic” that is waste crime in the UK, finding that a fifth of UK waste is handled illegally at some point in its life cycle. The report stated that “the more we look for incidents of non-compliance, the more waste crime we find.”
This is despite the report outlining the Environment Agencies goal of cutting waste crime in a bid to create a more circular waste and recycling industry.
Currently the EA estimates that waste crime costs the UK economy £924m per year with 18% of waste handled illegally at some point. This is equivalent to 34 million tonnes of waste per annum, and with just 25% of waste crimes reported, there is still a way to go before meeting the “audacious ambition” of eliminating waste crime all together.
Since adopting a new strategy in 2021, the EA have taken on “more proactive and preventive activities aimed at targeting the criminals and deterring future offenders.”
In the Environment Agencies waste crime summary data release at the end of March 2022 it was found that the number of illegal waste sites was at record lows since 2009 with 419 active waste sites.
Waste crime, taking many forms, is described as “fly-tipping, illegal dumping or burning of waste, deliberate mis- description of waste, operation of illegal waste management sites, and illegal waste export”.
Waste crime also includes the misrepresentation of waste, selling or purchasing illegitimate Packaging Recovery Notes (PRNs) or Packaging Export Recovery Notes (PERNs), as well as other associated crimes such as human trafficking and forced labour.