The Government has announced reforms to target waste criminals following the adoption of the Environmental Improvement Plan last month.
Currently rules allow certain low-risk, small-scale waste activities to be carried out under a registration scheme exempt from the need to hold an environmental permit. However these rules been exploited by criminals illegally stockpiling unsuitable waste or avoiding Landfill Tax. Across England and Wales these abuses are estimated to cost £87.2 million per year.
The reforms remove three exemptions to environmental permit rules which cover depolluted end-of-life vehicle parts, the treatment of tyres and the recovery of scrap metal. The Environment Agency and local authorities will also have their enforcement powers boosted to bring criminals to justice.
The Environment Agency’s regulatory compliance checks have revealed that certain exemption types have been routinely used to hide illegal waste activities from regulatory oversight in recent years.
In November 2020 firefighters tackled a blaze for a week at a site in Bradford that held an exemption allowing the storage of tyres. The exemption was being abused and 600,000 tyres were on the site. The proposed reforms would mean a full environmental permit would be needed for this kind of site.
Alongside this announcement the Environment Agency has also launched its National Waste Crime Survey. The survey aims to understand the scale and impacts of waste crime in England, find out what will encourage people to report waste criminals, understand what will deter people from committing a waste crime and assess the effectiveness of action taken by us and our partners to reduce waste crime.