‘CSI’ techniques to crack down on unlicensed waste operators

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The Environment Agency is extending the use of the latest sophisticated techniques including forensics, handwriting experts and crime mapping alongside the legal powers in its fight against illegal waste activities. The move signals a renewed effort by the Environment Agency to stamp out the practice. The Board heard on Wednesday that over half of the illegally operating waste sites in England and Wales during 2007/08 were closed down or brought into legal status. Lord Chris Smith, Chairman at the Environment Agency, said: “Operating illegal waste sites is a criminal offence and their activities can result in serious pollution of our environment.

“Not only that, but they also pose a risk to wildlife and people, spoil the quality of life of those living nearby and undermine legitimate waste management businesses. Over the past few years, the Environment Agency has made great steps to tackle the problem and we are continuing to step up our efforts.”

An illegal waste site is one without an appropriate permit for the deposit, treatment, storage or disposal of multiple loads of waste and where the activity is (or appears to us to be) taking place in an organised manner. The landowner or legal occupier generally knows about the activities at the site (but not always) and the operation is often run as a business.

The Environment Agency’s focus has now shifted to tackling those sites that pose a higher risk to the environment. However it faces a number of challenges in tackling them – for example, enforcement can be a costly, complex and lengthy process. New sites are opening all the time and the work can involve dealing with organised criminals who are often involved in other serious crimes.

Lord Smith continued: “Preventing and prosecuting unlicensed waste sites is not just a role for the Environment Agency. Other bodies like local authorities, the police and the DVLA also have a part to play in ensuring everyone is playing by the rules. Waste producers also need to ensure that the waste they produce is passed to registered waste carriers and ends up at licensed facilities.

“So the message from the Environment Agency is clear – there is no hiding place for illegal waste operators. Our enforcement officers are watching and we will take every step possible to protect the environment and bring offenders to justice.”

Businesses and householders have a duty of care to ensure they hand their waste to an Environment Agency registered waste carrier.

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