Setting the Direction of Government Policy on UK Waste Crime

20th May 2019

The Environmental Services Association Educational Trust (ESAET) and the Environmental Services Association (ESA) commissioned us to help them understand the scale of waste crime in the UK and rethink how it might be tackled.

Our 2017 report Rethinking Waste Crime drew attention to how illegal waste operators blight local communities, damage the environment, harm legitimate businesses and deprive the Government of tax revenue. In total, we found that waste crime in England costs the legitimate waste industry and the taxpayer at least £604 million a year. We then explored how weak regulation and underfunding of the regulator allows this to happen.

Recognising that there is no one-stop solution to the problem of waste crime, we recommended a package of changes to modernise England’s out of date waste management system. Many of the recommendations we made in the report have since been included in the Government’s Waste and Resources Strategy for England, including:

  • Redesigning the waste carriers and brokers scheme;
  • Reforming the waste exemptions regime;
  • Mandating the use of Electronic Waste Transfer Notes;
  • Improving enforcement efforts, and developing secure long-term sources of enforcement funding;
  • Improving cross-regulatory co-operation between regulators (such as HMRC, the Environment Agency and the Police and Crime Commissioners); and,
  • Raising awareness around the regulatory regime, both to enable operators to fulfil their obligations and to help tackle non-compliance.

Jacob Hayler, Executive Director at the ESA, said:

“Despite additional funding for regulators and stronger enforcement powers, waste crime is more entrenched than ever. Clearly, we need 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. This report highlighted the weakness in the current regime and put forward ambitious recommendations aimed at stopping waste crime once and for all.”

Our Project Manager, Sam Taylor, said:

“Criminal activity in the waste sector is a serious problem that unfortunately is only getting worse. We welcomed the ESA’s desire to petition the Government on this issue, and were able to identify several gaps and loopholes in existing legislation and to offer practical ways of fixing them. Moreover, it’s been great to see the Government take up so many of our recommendations in the Waste and Resources Strategy.”

The report followed on from similar work undertaken for the ESA in 2014, when we assessed the economic impact of waste crime on the UK as a whole in the report Waste Crime: Britain’s Dirty Secret. We have also delivered a report specifically focussed on the impacts of waste crime in Wales for Natural Resources Wales.

Photo courtesy of Philafrenzy, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0.