Unregistered waste carriers remain rife

Recent checks by the Environment Agency have revealed that the problem of cowboy waste carriers remains serious. New powers available to local authorities may help improve the situation.

Carriers of controlled waste are required to register with the Agency under the Control of Pollution (Amendment) Act 1989. But a significant minority has long flouted the requirement.

In July 2001, a joint operation by the Agency and police in Essex found that 40 out of 110 vehicles checked were not registered. Checks at five locations in Wales the previous November found 22 vehicles that were not carrying proof of registration.

Recent checks by the Agency suggest that the problem remains widespread. An exercise in St Helens in November found that six of the 12 vehicles stopped were unregistered.

A year-long programme to catch unregistered waste carriers was conducted by the Agency in the West Midlands in conjunction with Birmingham City Council and other enforcement authorities. The first operation in March found 50 unregistered lorries, while a similar operation in June found a further twenty.

Following both operations and subsequent media coverage, the Agency received 40 unsolicited applications for registrations. A third operation, in August, found that eight out of 31 vehicles were not carrying proof of registration.

A number of carriers have recently been prosecuted by the Agency for failing to register. On 3 December, skip operator David Tarrant was fined £2,500 by Colchester magistrates for the offence. He was fined a further £10,000 for illegally keeping controlled waste.

More typical, however, are the fines of £400 and £200 recently handed down by magistrates in South Wales.

New powers for councils may help improve the situation. The Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003 - which gained Royal Assent in November - will allow waste collection authorities to stop, search and seize vehicles which they suspect have been used for the unlawful deposit of waste (ENDS Report 341, pp 41-42 ).

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