Stopping waste crime protects your environment, your land and your business from harm. Our Environmental Crime Officer, Stephanie Marriott, talks about the effects from waste crime that she sees every day and how you can help us in our fight against illegal waste activity.
As an Environmental Crime Officer I spend my time investigating waste crime. Over recent years waste crime has increased as a result of rising costs to dispose of waste legitimately and criminals shifting their focus to illegal waste activities as a way to make money. You only have to take a drive through the countryside to see the thousands of tonnes of waste that has been tipped in various gateways and in lay-bys in an attempt to avoid disposal costs.
Waste crime can take on many different forms from the local tradesmen who decides to fly-tip their waste; to companies collecting waste and burning it; whilst others will take payment to dispose of waste but then hire an empty barn, fill it up and promptly disappear. At the more organised end of the scale you also have the large scale landfilling of waste.
Another avenue for waste crime is through the mis-description of waste. This is where companies and operators describe waste incorrectly, whether intentionally or through lack of understanding, and this can lead to hazardous waste being sent to the wrong recycling or disposal route. This can cause hazardous particles to enter the environment, for example within contaminated soils or even re-enter the system as a new product within recycled material.
The impact of waste crime
With all of us wanting to spend more time outdoors, protecting the environment has never been more important. I have seen first-hand the impact that waste crime has had not only on the environment for example, pollution to rivers and drinking water supplies from run off caused by illegal landfilling, but also on those affected by it such as landowners, local residents and legitimate waste sites. Landowners are often faced with expensive clean-up costs when waste criminals dump on their land as they become responsible for the waste, whilst residents may put up with toxic fumes from the burning of waste or excessive noise from illegal landfilling and legitimate waste operators lose business as they are undercut by illegal operators.
Working with others
When tackling waste crime I have a whole range of powers at my disposal. As each case is different it is my job to adapt my response to suit each situation using these powers.
Working with partners and stakeholders including landowners, insurance companies, Local Authorities and the Police, to name but a few, is also important to help tackle the issue. Residents can also be central to the fight as they can provide valuable information about the activity which in turn can help me understand the extent and impact activities are having on land, air and water environments.
Understanding the problem
In my efforts to pursue illegal waste activity I often talk to those affected. The Environment Agency is currently gathering insight from those affected by waste crime through its’ Waste Crime Survey, open for responses now until 22 March. Information gathered through this survey will help the Environment Agency better understand the impact that this type of crime has on people, the environment, and business.
The aims of the survey are:
- to understand the scale and impacts of waste crime in England;
- what would deter people from committing a waste crime; and
- whether the actions taken by the Environment Agency and their partners are effective in reducing waste crime.
We are seeking information from both victims of waste crime such as landowners, insurance companies and residents as well as from those who can provide us with important intelligence such as industry. This will help us to refine our approach to stopping waste crime by focusing our efforts where they are needed most and to ensure the powers we currently have are adequate to tackle the issues of waste crime.
Information is key so we’re asking you to share your experiences to help us in the fight against waste crime by completing our new survey.