Government taskforce set to tackle £600m serious and organised waste crime
The Government has launched a Joint Unit for Waste Crime (JUWC) bringing together law enforcement agencies, environmental regulators, HMRC and the National Crime Agency from across the UK to target the waste criminals and prosecute .
The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said serious and organised waste crime was an ever increasing problem across the UK and is estimated to cost the UK economy around £600m a year.
This new unit will seek to tackle practices such as dumping hazardous materials on private land and falsely labelling waste so it can be exported abroad to unsuspecting countries.
The unit will conduct site inspections, make arrests and prosecutions and, upon conviction, push for heavy fines and custodial sentences, Defra said.
“By working together in this way, joint Unit partners can more easily share their intelligence and resources to take swifter action when investigating criminal waste operations and other connected illegal activities, such as money laundering and human trafficking.”
Last year the Environment Agency’s dedicated team stopped illegal waste activity at 912 sites – 12% more than the previous year. As a result of prosecutions taken by the Agency, businesses and individuals were fined almost £2.8m for environmental offences in 2018.
Toby Willison, Chair of the JUWC Board, said: “The war against waste crime just took a giant step forward. 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.
“We will target serious and organised criminals across the country as they try to illegally exploit the waste industry and the environment. These criminal gangs need to know that we have them in our sights.”
Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers said: “Waste crime is a scourge on our environment and this new Joint Unit for Waste Crime will crack down on the criminals responsible.
“Criminals are shifting their focus to waste crime as they expand their illegal activities and it’s vital that we take action. The Joint Unit will shut down illegal waste sites, catch criminals before they can do further harm to our environment and local communities, and make them pay for the damage they have done through custodial sentences and the payment of compensation.”
Defra said that since 2015, six legislative changes had been made to enable the Environment Agency to take tougher action against waste criminals. This includes the Agency having the power to restrict access to problem waste sites by locking gates and barring access.