Defra unveils ‘crackdown’ on waste crime

The recycling minister Jo Churchill has today (21 January) unveiled a “crackdown” on waste crime, with proposals put forward in two consultations.

Under Defra's plan, the waste registration system will be revamped, along with stepping up digital waste tracking

According to the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) this forms part of “fresh plans to reform the waste industry”.

Waste permits

The carrier, broker, dealer consultation will seek views from the waste industry and other stakeholders on the move from a registration to a permit-based system which would mean those transporting or making decisions about waste must demonstrate they are competent to make those decisions.

Defra said waste is often handled by intermediaries who conceal their identities to commit serious and organised waste crime.

Th government department claimed the increased checks will ensure waste is managed by authorised persons only and in a safe manner, making it harder for unregistered operators to find work in the sector.

Where an operator might fall under the proposals, based on their business activities

Waste tracking

The second consultation could see the introduction of mandatory digital waste tracking, using powers in the Environment Act to overhaul existing waste record keeping.

This means those handling waste will record information from the point waste is produced to the stage it is disposed of, recycled and reused.

“This will enable regulators to better detect illegal activity and tackle waste crime, including fly-tipping, illegal waste sites, and illegal waste exports,” Defra said in its announcement.

Discussions have already been carried out with more than1,200 waste businesses as to what is seen as important for waste tracking and related topics.

Now, during this month and February local authorities are to be contacted to see what needs they have from a waste tracking service (see story).

Councils are expected to suggest that a new tracking system could help in the battle against flytipping.

These reforms will make it easier to prosecute offenders

  • Jo Churchill


Environment minister Jo Churchill said despite nearly 1,000 waste sites being closed every year, there remains much more to do.

Jo Churchill was appointed recycling minister last year

“Waste criminals show complete disregard for our communities, the environment and the taxpayer. We have disrupted these rogue operators by giving extra powers to the Environment Agency, with nearly 1,000 illegal waste sites now being shut down each year.

“But there is more to do. Reforming the licensing system will clamp down on abuse of the system and new mandatory digital waste tracking will greatly improve transparency in the sector and make it easier for householders to check that their waste is being disposed of legally.

“Together, these reforms will stop criminals abusing the waste system and make it easier to prosecute offenders successfully.”


Defra explained that criminal activities including fly-tipping, illegal dumping, and the illegal export of waste abroad can blight communities, harm the environment, and pose a risk to human health.

Waste crime costs the economy more than £900 million a year, Defra explained

The department said in 2018/19, waste crime cost the English economy around £924 million, while local authorities dealt with nearly 1.13 million fly-tipping incidents this year alone.

The new plans “build on the extra £60 million given to the Environment Agency to tackle waste crime since 2014”,  as well as new powers to stop illegal waste sites posing a risk to the environment, including the ability to lock up sites and force rogue operators to clean up all their waste.

Jacob Hayler, executive director at the Environmental Services Association (ESA), added: “This could be a pivotal moment in the fight against waste crime, a scourge which severely undermines confidence and investment at a crucial time for our sector.

“ESA is very supportive of the policy proposals outlined which should help to make life difficult for criminals infiltrating our sector and making a fast buck at the expense of legitimate operators and the environment.”


The Government and Devolved Governments are working closely together to develop a UK-wide digital waste tracking service for those handling waste, Defra says.

The CIWM’s chief executive Sarah Poulter welcomed the proposals

Defra says this will help businesses comply with their duty of care with regards to waste and help them make more informed choices about how their waste is managed.

Sarah Poulter, CEO of the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management, added: “We warmly welcome today’s announcement and share the Government’s ambition to crack down on illegal waste activity.

“The launch of these consultations provides a valuable opportunity for the UK waste and resource management sector to influence its future direction and help eradicate practices which have tarnished its reputation and deterred much needed investment.”

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