Cost of waste crime rises by 53%, ESA says

The total annual cost of waste-related crime in England has increased by 53% in three years, according to a recent study by the Environmental Services Association (ESA).

The report said that the cost of waste-related crime in England has “grown exponentially”

And, the study adds that it now costs the country nearly a billion pounds a year, partly down to a rise in fly-tipping.

The report, ‘counting the cost of waste crime’, was published by the ESA today (22 July) in partnership with environmental consultancy Eunomia, which complied the research.

It says that the cost of waste-related crime in England has “grown exponentially”, with costs rising from £604 million in 2015 to more than £924 million in 2018/19.

Range of factors

According to the study, costs have risen due to a “range of factors”, including an increase in the number of recorded waste crime incidents taking place across the country.

In particular, the costs associated with fly-tipping alone increased by £183million between 2015 and 2018/19, which was “largely driven” by an increase in the total number of incidents, coupled with increasing costs of clean-up.


Gavin Graveson described the extent of waste crime in the UK as “shocking”

Gavin Graveson, chair of the ESA, said: “Waste criminals are exploiting a lack of public awareness and lack of regulatory oversight in this area, which has led to an increase in fly-tipping and illegal waste sites that contribute significantly to the overall £924 million cost of waste crime in England identified in our report today.

“Successive ESA reports over the past eight years have highlighted the shocking extent of waste crime in the UK and its cost to both the environment and economy. This latest report exposes the unfortunate truth that, despite additional regulatory focus in recent years, the scale of waste crime has significantly worsened.

“Although understandably delayed by the pandemic, it is now vital that the Government proceeds at pace with long promised reforms of the regulatory regime and we must make it much harder for criminals to operate in the recycling and waste sector.”

Further initiatives

The report comes in the wake of a recent crackdown on illegal waste activities undertaken by the Environment Agency, including Operation Angola, which focuses on catching criminal waste gangs across the South East.

A tightening of entry requirements for waste carriers, brokers and dealers to prevent criminals from accessing the sector is being sought by the ESA

In light of the report, the ESA is now calling for further initiatives to tackle waste crime, including the tightening of entry requirements for waste carriers, brokers and dealers to prevent criminals from accessing the sector.

It adds that crime enforcement budgets should be increased in the longer term, to “better reflect both the considerable financial gains made by waste criminals and the significant harm caused to the environment and local communities”.

‘Worrying trend’

Sam Taylor, principal consultant at Eunomia commented: “Waste crime is a blight on our neighbourhoods and environment. Our research has shown a worrying trend in increasing costs of waste crime when the Government is working hard to  promote resource efficiency and move towards a more circular economy in England. It’s absolutely vital that waste crime is monitored accurately and the waste sector is supported by a robust regulatory regime.”

Related link
ESA crime report


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