New steps have been announced to tackle problem waste sites, while a consultation will further help deal with crime and poor performance in the waste sector. New powers to tackle the serious problem of waste crime will be granted, and further action opened for consultation in a crack-down on illegal sites.
Waste crime cost the English economy more than £600m in 2015, including lost landfill tax revenues and clean-up costs, and creates severe problems for people who live or work nearby with odour, dust, litter, vermin, fly infestations, pollution and fires blighting lives. Waste criminals also undercut genuine businesses who dispose of waste responsibly.
New powers will therefore be introduced for the Environment Agency (EA) to lock the gates or block access to problem waste sites to prevent thousands of tonnes of waste illegally building up. The powers will also enable the EA to force operators to clear all the waste at a problem waste site, not just the illegal waste.
The government has also launched a new consultation to tackle crime and poor performance in the waste sector. Proposals include raising the bar required to hold EA waste permits, and putting a stop to criminals hiding their illegal activities by requiring them to register low-risk waste operations which are currently exempt from the need to hold a permit.
It also suggests providing local authorities with the option of fining those whose waste ends up fly-tipped or illegally dumped rather than having to pursue them through the courts. Latest statistics show that some of the worst hit areas include London which saw over 360,000 fly-tipping incidents last year and the North West of England which saw 128,000 incidents in 2016/17. More than 850 new illegal waste sites were discovered by the EA in 2016-17.
Household waste is also a problem and makes up nearly two thirds of fly-tipped waste. Currently local authorities can only prosecute householders in court, but a new fixed penalty notice would be less costly to enforce for local authorities, and more proportionate for householders.
The government is clear however that new fixed penalty notices should not be abused simply as a means of raising money. Guidance on how the fines should be applied will therefore be issued to councils.
The new powers for the EA to tackle problem waste sites will be introduced by spring 2018, subject to parliamentary approval.