Mandatory digital tracking on waste and stricter background checks on waste carriers are being proposed in a bid to tackle waste crime, which costs £924m each year in England alone
The Government is conducting a waste carrier, broker, dealer consultation with the English waste industry on its background check proposals, as well as a separate UK-wide consultation including devolved governments on digital waste tracking.
Concern over the ability of the Environment Agency (EA) to deal with illegal waste disposal, especially sewage storm overflow, due to decades of cuts to funding, has been highlighted by both specialist and mainstream press.
David Williams, EHP and member of the CIEH Environmental Protection Panel said, "The EA and local authority resources have been reduced and reduced so that many have got to the point where it is extremely difficult to enforce the existing regulations as well as they should be expected to.
"Having sufficient resources is a major issue because it takes a lot of time to investigate fly tipping and illegal waste sites, and to prosecute if appropriate."
Defra said the proposed reforms would introduce increased checks to ensure waste is managed by appropriate individuals and make it harder for those who are unregistered to find work in the waste sector.
‘It is currently too easy for waste to be handled by intermediaries who could conceal their identity and commit, and financially benefit from, waste crimes ‘
The department said it was too easy currently for waste to be handled by intermediaries who could conceal their identity and commit, and financially benefit from, waste crimes like fly-tipping, illegal waste sites, and illegal waste exporting.
An overhaul of record keeping with the introduction of mandatory digital waste tracking from the production of waste through to disposal, recycling, or reuse, should also assist regulators in detecting illegal activity.
Reforms proposed should also make it easier for regulators to take action against rogue operators.
The response from the waste industry has been positive. The Chartered Institution of Wastes Management welcomed the proposals as long as they were “correctly implemented”, with the Environmental Services Association saying this could be a “a pivotal moment in the fight against waste crime”.
Environment Minister, Jo Churchill said: “Waste criminals show complete disregard for our communities, the environment and the taxpayer.
“We have disrupted these rogue operators by giving extra powers to the Environment Agency, with nearly 1,000 illegal waste sites now being shut down each year, while our new Joint Unit for Waste Crime is successfully disrupting criminal gangs, for example, prosecuting fly tippers illegally dumping hundreds of tonnes of hazardous waste across the countryside.
“But there is more to do. Reforming the licensing system will clamp down on abuse of the system and new mandatory digital waste tracking will greatly improve transparency in the sector and make it easier for householders to check that their waste is being disposed of legally.
“Together, these reforms will stop criminals abusing the waste system and make it easier to prosecute offenders successfully.”
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