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Special crime unit battles UK’s illegal waste activities

The UK has set up a new taskforce to tackle serious and organised waste crime. The Joint Unit for Waste Crime (JUWC) will conduct site inspections, make arrests and prosecutions and, upon conviction, push for heavy fines and custodial sentences.

UK authorities reported illegal waste activities at 912 sites in 2019 which is a 12% increase on the previous year. Organised waste crime costs the UK economy at least £600 million (EUR 702 million) a year, according to the Environmental Services Association, which represents waste managers.

The initiative brings together law enforcement agencies and environmental regulators including the National Crime Agency and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC). The anti-crime unit is one of several initiatives in the UK government’s Resources and Waste Strategy.

‘The launch of this new unit means we now have a full complement of partners across law enforcement as well as our counterparts in Scotland and Wales to bring down waste criminals for good,’ says Toby Willison, executive director of operations at the Environment Agency. He was recently appointed chair of the JUWC board. ‘The war against waste crime just took a giant step forward.’

Willison points out the unit will also tackle the dumping of hazardous materials on private land while cracking down on the illegal labelling ofwaste so it can be exported. ‘These criminal gangs need to know that we have them in our sights,’ Willison adds.

Simon Walker of HMRC’s fraud investigation service comments: ‘We are proud to be part of the JUWC. Waste crime is a blight on our society. Those responsible often involved in a raft of other crimes including large scale fraud that rob our vital public services of much-needed funds.’

The UK’s National Crime Agency’s waste crime budget has been increased by £60 million for the period 2014-22.

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