New powers to tackle waste crime, including allowing the Environment Agency to lock illegal waste sites and force rogue traders to clean up all waste, come into force today (29 March).
Other changes include the use of body worn cameras for all EA staff, following a “growing number of abusive incidents during site inspections”.
Subject to parliamentary approval, the moves were initially announced in January 2018. This was in conjunction with a consultation by Defra on further action to crack-down on illegal sites which included possible new powers for local authorities to fine householders for using illegal operators (see letsrecycle.com story). This consultation expired on Monday (March 26).
This follows a public consultation in which 90% of respondents, said Defra, were in favour of allowing regulators to take physical steps to prevent operators from accepting more illegally dumped waste.
The measures which come into force today follow an extra £30 million of funding from the Government in November 2017 to tackle waste crime – an issue that the EA says “drives business away from legitimate operators, blights communities and endangers the environment”.
The new powers mean that the EA can lock the gates of illegal sites to prevent the build-up of waste, and the EA can now force operators to clear all the waste at a problem site, not just the illegal waste.
‘Curb illegal sites’
Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey explained that the new powers will give the EA what it needs to curb the number of illegal waste sites.
She said: “Through our 25 year Environment plan we want to be the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than we inherited it. As part of that commitment I am determined to crack down on these criminals and these new powers will be crucial in ending this criminal activity once and for all, backed up by £30 million of new money.”
The use of body cameras was first trialled by the Environment Agency in the north east of England. Footage captured on a bodycam was recently used to bring a conviction against an offender for the first time. The defendant was found guilty of wilfully obstructing the officers in the execution of their duty and using abusive behaviour towards two officers.
In the financial year 2016/17, the Environment Agency say it brought 138 prosecutions against businesses or individuals for waste crime offences, yielding more than £2m in fines.