10 June 2021 by Joshua Doherty

Agency told of scale of waste crime

The Environment Agency has published the results of its national waste crime survey, with respondents from the waste industry saying 18% in the sector commit “some form of waste crime”.

The survey was launched in March (see letsrecycle.com story) and looked to assess how regulation could be used to “combat” waste crime.

waste crime

The Environment Agency says it will use the survey ‘to inform its enforcement action and sector engagement’

Those who had experienced “significant inconvenience or financial implications” from waste crime including farmers, landowners and councils were encouraged to take part.

The survey closed last month and the Agency published its responses today (10 June).


For the 836 people who responded to the survey, the top issue was large scale fly-tipping, followed by illegal waste sites. Fifty-five per cent of respondents estimated that large-scale fly-tipping had increased during the past 12 months.

Respondents estimated that just 25% of waste crime incidents were reported to the Agency. The regulator said waste industry employees estimated that just under one in five organisations (18%) in their sector committed some form of waste crime.

The Agency said the economic impacts of waste crime was cited as the biggest problem, with 73% of respondents saying they had picked up the financial cost of clean-ups, while 58% experienced disruption to their business.

Nearly three in 10 people who were affected by illegal exports of waste or illegal waste sites incurred more than £50,000 of financial costs in the last year, the Agency added.

The survey was commissioned by the Environment Agency and is supported by the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM), Environmental Services Association (ESA), the United Resource Operators Consortium and the National Farmers Union.


The Agency says it will use the survey feedback to inform its enforcement action and sector engagement, ensuring that customers, businesses and communities have greater awareness of waste regulation, the penalties for those who break the law and how the regulator investigates waste crime.

“This survey gives us valuable insight into the views of our customers and those impacted by waste crime”

Malcolm Lythgo, Environment Agency

Malcolm Lythgo, head of waste regulation at the Environment Agency, said: “Waste criminals show complete disregard for communities and the environment, and they need to know we are ready to take action. Last year the EA prosecuted nearly 100 individuals and companies for waste crime offences, with fines exceeding £900,000, 28 custodial sentences and £1 million of confiscation orders.”

He added: “We know how frustrating and costly waste crime is for landowners and communities, as well as those who manage their waste correctly but see others breaking the rules to gain an unfair competitive advantage. This survey gives us valuable insight into the views of our customers and those impacted by waste crime, and will help us in our fight against waste criminals. It will help us improve compliance of the waste sector and clamp down harder on those who show complete disregard for the environment and the law.”

Waste crime unit

The Agency highlighted that its Joint Unit for Waste Crime (JUWC) had been launched in January 2020 to tackle serious and organised crime. The regulator said said multi-agency operations had been continued to disrupt illegal activity throughout the pandemic.

More than half of respondents (55%) felt fly-tipping increased in the past 12 months

It also said that it stopped illegal waste activity at 2,700 sites between 2017 and 2020, with 191 prosecutions and 39 prison sentences handed down. It also issued fines of over £1.1 million for illegal waste sites and £5.5 million in Proceeds of Crime Act confiscation orders.


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