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Waste crime: help spot it and stop it

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Regulated industry, Waste

Our work collecting and evaluating information about serious and organised environmental crime is vital for stopping waste crime.  We use reports about suspected illegal activity from industry and the public to build intelligence so we that can target our work and take action against waste criminals.

If you think you have seen illegal waste activity, help stop it by reporting it anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or online.

Here are some signs to spot that could indicate that a waste site is breaking the law.

Signs to spot an illegal waste site

signs to spot an illegal waste site

There are lots of signs to look out for, which could suggest suspicious activity. These include:

  • Out-of-hours activity at night, over weekends and during bank holidays
  • Smoke caused by constant burning
  • An increase in the number of lorries entering a site
  • Waste going into a site but not coming out with increasing quantities of waste stockpiled on site
  • Water pollution

The lack of a sign at the site entrance giving the operator’s name and permit number, flyers advertising cheap disposal rates and odour caused by rotting waste on the site could also be signs that they are operating outside of the law.

Fly-tipping should be reported to your local council.

How we use your reports

In the Intelligence Team we build a picture of what’s happening – locally, nationally and internationally – so that we can target Environment Agency resources to have the most impact. Investigating illegal waste sites, illegal waste exports and the deliberate mis-description of waste to evade taxation are our current big priorities.

Illegal waste sites cause environmental pollution and undercut legitimate business. Sites involved in the processing, storage or disposal of waste must have a permit issued and regulated by the Environment Agency. The permit makes sure that the sites only take certain types and quantities of waste and that they have infrastructure in place to prevent pollution. For example, the use of sealed drainage systems to prevent water pollution or fencing to prevent litter escaping from the site.

Illegal operators working outside this system often charge less for their services because they don’t put pollution prevention measures in place. This puts communities and the environment at risk and threatens legitimate businesses.

Checking whether a site is registered

Whether you are a business, local council or householder make sure you know where your waste goes, so it doesn't end up in the hands of illegal operators.  Everyone who disposes of waste has a ‘duty of care’ to ensure it is handled safely and correctly.

Landowners should make sure that tenants involved in waste have the necessary permissions in place and remain compliant with those permissions. The costs for landlords to clear up an illegal waste site can run to thousands of pounds.

You can check the public register to see if a site is permitted and whether the person who collects and disposes of your waste is a registered waste carrier.

Taking action against waste criminals

We take a wide range of action against the operators of illegal waste sites depending upon the nature of the illegal activities and the history of the offender. Where appropriate we will prosecute offenders.

Operating an illegal waste site can result in unlimited fines and up to 5 years imprisonment. Other penalties, which can be sanctioned by the courts, include disqualification as a director, seizure of vehicles, disqualification from driving and community service. We will also use the Proceeds of Crime Act to recover any monies generated as a result of the illegal activity. This can run into hundreds of thousands of pounds.

If you suspect that a site is operating illegally, report it. We've partnered with independent charity Crimestoppers to provide an anonymous way of reporting waste crime. Call 0800 555 111 or report it online at


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  1. Comment by Karen posted on

    Have onward homes got a waste carrier license

  2. Comment by Gary Foster posted on

    the crimestoppers link is wrong

  3. Comment by amanda delaney posted on

    There is a so called business at the side of stockfield mill Chadderton, high fence ,cameras,dog etc who constantly burn products to which all the debris goes onto the car park at Stockfield mill Chadderton causing damage to the cars.
    You cannot get into the compound or see anyone to speak to.
    Can this be reported in any way?

    • Replies to amanda delaney>

      Comment by kathrynbooth posted on

      Hello Amanda

      Please report this to our incident team on:

      0800 80 70 60

      They will need to take further information from you so a report can be put together so we can investigate further.

      Regards Amy

      • Replies to kathrynbooth>

        Comment by Jade Chadwick posted on

        We constantly have young groups of kids starting fires at the back of our property in yeadon. The fires smell so strong and there is always a strong smell of weed along with loud noise for the kids

  4. Comment by sandra marshall posted on

    I have a lodge on a caravan site and they constantly burn old decking, plastic wicker chairs and garden rubbish. The smell and smoke ruins my pleasure as I can’t sit out and my lodge smells of smoke. I have complained and they haven’t burnt anything for a week but the pile of stuff on the fire pit is now huge I’m dreading it when they do light it. Nobody stays with the fire when it’s lit and the children’s football area is right at the side of it. What do I do?

  5. Comment by S Bell posted on

    All sorted as kids set fire to it and fire brigade had to come out and they’ve reported it

  6. Comment by FRED SMITH posted on


    • Replies to FRED SMITH>

      Comment by eileenroffe posted on

      Please call our 24hr Incident Hotline to report trade waste being burned on 0800 807060. Thanks - Joz

  7. Comment by Jason posted on

    We live in Wolverhampton, someone has to!
    Our neighbour has for the past twelve months been dumping rubbish and building materials on private land that my wife bought two years ago as revenge against me telling him that if he wanted to buy some of her land he would have to "take it up with her". The rubbish consists of: -
    Scrap metal, parts of a metal cooker, old timbers, tree branches, huge sectioned tree trunks, broken chipboard cupboards, old roofing felt, transparent plastic corrugated roofing sheets, scaffold planks, old paint tins, a large roll of concertina hose, a stack of concrete blocks, thousands of used roofing tiles , etc.
    My wife has written two very polite letters asking him to remove the rubbish, but he is responding by dumping more, is he committing an offence?

  8. Comment by S Price posted on

    I've just witnessed a local cafe pourimg waste oil down the drain in the high street in front of their premises-who do I report this to?

    • Replies to S Price>

      Comment by eileenroffe posted on

      Please report this to our 24hr Incident Hotline on 0800 807060. They will take full details and assign an Environment Officer to investigate.

  9. Comment by Katie posted on

    Hello my neighbour is constantly burning mostly at night, we live in the countryside but what he is burning is plastics, rubber due to the smell and colour of the smoke, I can't have the windows open as our bedrooms fill with it. I can't discuss with him as he's not an easy man, what department of the council would you report this too?

    He also fills his recycle bins with rubbish and then only outs recycling on the top of them, again which department do I report too?

    • Replies to Katie>

      Comment by eileenroffe posted on

      This type of enquiry will fall under the remit of Environmental Health who are with the Local Council. I have placed the link below that will allow you to find contact details to forward your enquiry to them. The Environment Agency regulate the waste industry and deal with flooding from rivers among other industry regulated activities. - Eileen

    • Replies to Katie>

      Comment by Michael posted on

      Did you get anywhere with that? We suffer from the same problem. Neighbor burning plastics and tyres all night every night for last 4 months. Council not interested. Environmental Health not interested. Housing Association not interested. They all just take my name and address and do nothing besides sending a letter. Apparently, they can't prove what is being burned and how often... All estate keeps windows shut while the toxic engulfs.

  10. Comment by Ann posted on

    My neighbour has a shop ( clothes alterations ) she brings her rubbish home and puts it out with house hold waste some times it’s about six bin bags is this ok

    • Replies to Ann>

      Comment by eileenroffe posted on

      Hello Ann

      We regulate the commercial waste industry in terms of licencing/permits. For example if she was transporting commercial waste herself she would need a waste carriers licence from us. If your enquiry is in terms of health and safety you would need to environmental health who are a department at the local authority:

      Regards Amy

  11. Comment by Dermot Lawless posted on

    Where do I report a retail unit in Edinburgh using residents bins for discarding their trade waste?

  12. Comment by Lou posted on


    We live to small units. One unit burns waste and it has we think caused a fire and damaged our property. There was no other way it could have started. Until Wednesday this unit hadn’t capped the chimney. Is this illegal? We often remove partially burned debris from our garden. The fire services attended and its caused damage to windows all garden furniture. Roof Fence and boiler as the flue melted and water sprayed into the boiler as it had melted I need advice.

  13. Comment by Claire posted on

    Hi, how do I report a neighbour who is having daily large bonfires in there garden, they burn large amounts of stuff on a daily basis, including mattresses etc.. theres large amounts of black smoke and horrible smell, I'm pretty sure they are doing waste collection and burning it.

  14. Comment by Carl Robert Talbot posted on

    Hi there i am plagued with scrap metal collectors comming round and just taking stuff from ppls drives i very much doubt they have s waste disposal liscence how do i report them plz

    • Replies to Carl Robert Talbot>

      Comment by eileenroffe posted on

      Hello - please report this to our national incident team on: 0800 80 70 60 - Eileen

  15. Comment by Gary Wilson posted on

    A neighbour runs a wedding car business and regularly has fires throughout the day I asked himn what he was burning and said oil, Who do I report this to?

    • Replies to Gary Wilson>

      Comment by eileenroffe posted on

      Hello - please report this to our national incident team on: 0800 80 70 60 - Eileen

  16. Comment by Debbie posted on

    Our neighbour imports lots of cats from another country (last count in the neighbours house 40 plus at any one time). I have reported this with the council before and on this previous occasion I could see 2 piles of cat litter by the braissere waiting to be burned. After complaining to the council on this occasion the practice stopped for a while and instead large amounts of black bin liners appeared along our boundary fence one burst open to reveal cat litter. In the past month my neighbour has decided to resume the burning of what I believe to be cat litter leaving the brassiere bailing out smoke most of the day and on numerous occasions the burning has started very early in the morning 4-5am approx. I’ve been in contact with my council now and they have advised me to also contact your dept.

    • Replies to Debbie>

      Comment by eileenroffe posted on

      Good morning, this is not reportable to the Environment Agency, please report to the Council again. The Animal and Plant Health Agency will be able to assist you: Animal and Plant Health Agency - Telephone: 0300 1000 313 Eleen

  17. Comment by Reg posted on

    Air in Osborne ave stanwell is foul somebody in vicinity
    Burning toxic materials early eve and night contacted council not interested local area needs monitoring
    Who else would be interested ?

  18. Comment by Shelley Bain posted on

    Who can we report a local recycling plant to that is burying plastic on its farm land and burning things day and night. Our local council won’t help because they use the plant.

    • Replies to Shelley Bain>

      Comment by eileenroffe posted on

      Hello - please report this to our national incident team on: 0800 80 70 60 - they will be able to ask more questions to log this as an incident - Eileen


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