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UK waste crime mostly associated with businesses

United Kingdom – Waste crime in the UK incurs annual losses to the legitimate waste industry and the taxpayer of £604 million (more than US$ 780 million), according to a new report commissioned by the Environmental Services Association Educational Trust and the Environmental Services Association (ESA).

According to ‘Rethinking Waste Crime’, illegal waste operators blight local communities, damage the environment, harm legitimate businesses and deprive the government of tax revenue.

The research shows the waste sector, which adds £6.6 billion (US$ 8.5 billion) of value to the UK economy, has changed ‘beyond all recognition’ in the last two decades and ‘regulation has not kept up’. It also concludes that the majority of waste crime is associated with waste from businesses rather than from households.

It suggests most serious waste crime falls into a number of categories, including illegal waste sites, illegal exports, illegal burning of waste, fly tipping and serious breaches of permit conditions. The report stresses that ‘weak regulation’ is a major issue with waste crime.

‘Waste carriers or sites that operate under exemptions are rarely inspected and there is no way to track commercial waste from its production through to its end destination,’ it is observed. The report recommends a package of changes which, it says, would modernise the UK’s ‘out of date’ waste management system, including the tightening of regulations in areas that are barely regulated, increased enforcement, banning serious and repeat offenders from the sector, and securing new sources of funding from criminals for the Environment Agency.

The ESA’s executive director Jacob Hayler comments: ‘Despite additional funding for regulators and stronger enforcement powers, waste crime is more entrenched than ever.’

There is a need for a different approach ‘which targets the underlying causes of crime in our sector and which roots out the prevailing culture which allows waste crime to flourish,’ he adds.

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