One in five waste firms commit waste crime, EA survey suggests

Just less than one in five organisations (18%) in the waste industry sector commit some form of waste crime, a survey carried out by the Environment Agency (EA) suggests.

The regulator launched its national waste crime survey in March in an attempt to assess how the waste industry, land owners, farmers and associated sectors are impacted by waste crime and how regulation can be used more effectively to combat it. 

The survey drew 836 respondents, who on average estimated that just 25% of waste crime incidents are reported to the EA. The respondents also estimated that 18% of firms in their industry commit some form of waste crime.

The top issues highlighted in the survey were large-scale fly-tipping followed by illegal waste sites, with 55% of respondents estimating that large-scale fly-tipping has increased over the past 12 months.

The economic impacts of waste crime are cited as the biggest problem, with 73% of respondents saying they have picked up the financial cost of clean-ups, while 58% experienced disruption to their business. Nearly three in 10 of people who were affected by illegal exports of waste or illegal waste sites incurred over £50,000 of financial costs in the last year.

The survey results showed that farmers are most affected by large-scale fly-tipping, and 15% of landowners reported making an insurance claim to clear dumped waste.

The agency said it will use the survey feedback to inform its enforcement action and sector engagement, “ensuring that customers, businesses and communities have greater awareness of waste regulation, the penalties for those who break the law and how the EA investigates waste crime”.

Malcolm Lythgo, head of waste regulation at the EA, said: “We know how frustrating and costly waste crime is for landowners and communities, as well as those who manage their waste correctly but see others breaking the rules to gain an unfair competitive advantage.”

The EA noted that everyone has a duty of care to manage their waste responsibly.

It reminded householders that before they pass their waste to a carrier, they have a legal duty of care to check that the carrier is licensed, which can be done on the EA website.

“It is also crucial that waste is correctly coded and classified for disposal or recycling so that you, or anyone handling your waste, can deal with it properly,” the agency said.

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