Pandemic hits Agency’s waste crime enforcement

The Environment Agency has published a summary of waste crime for the 2021/22 financial year, which shows how the pandemic has impacted enforcement.

The EA published the data this morning (20 October), warning the figures have been “directly influenced by the consequences of Covid-19” on the work of the Agency.

The Agency said the pandemic impacted its enforcement

In 2020/21, the data shows the number of new illegal waste sites identified in England fell to 621, the lowest since 2013/14.

The number of active illegal waste sites was 470 in 2020/21, which is the lowest since the latest records began in 2009. Of these, 197 are deemed high risk. In the previous year, there were 544 active waste sites, with 238 active high-risk sites.

The data is revealed in the EA’s Regulating for People, Environment and Growth report (RPEG), which  the EA says “shows many improving trends in environmental compliance, pollution incidents, crime, and emissions”.


The data also shows that the percentage of illegal waste sites which have been operating for more than two years has risen by 5% to 34%.

This is also the highest the figure has stood since 2009.

It also highlighted that construction and demolition waste was the most common material association with waste crime, followed by household waste.

There were 124 incidents involving construction waste, down from 153 the previous year, and 122 involving household waste, down from 134.


For waste exports, the number of containers inspected fell from 1889 to 1719 in 2020/21.

Containers sent back to waste companies has declined in 2020/21 (Picture: Shutterstock)

And, the number of containers returned to a waste company fell from 430 to 176, the lowest since 2012/13.

The data suggests the EA prevented 9335 tonnes of waste from being illegally exported, down from 11,288 in 2019/20 but up from 7341 two years ago.

‘Good regulation’

The report also included data on other regulated industries by the Environment Agency.

In a statement, the EA said “some 97% of industrial sites overseen by the Environment Agency comply with environmental rules, based on a five-year moving average, providing protection to nature and communities in the face of increasing risks from climate change”.

Since 2010, emissions of greenhouse gases from sites regulated under the Environmental Permitting Regulations have decreased by 50%. Methane emissions from regulated sites also decreased by 45% during this time.

The EA also delivered over 98% compliance in the five major energy efficiency and emissions trading schemes it administers. These cover over 40% of the UK’s carbon emissions from industry, business and the public sector.


Sir James Bevan, chief executive of the Environment Agency, said: “As the international community prepares to discuss the climate emergency at COP26, we must acknowledge the importance of good regulation in protecting communities and nature against growing climate risks.

“It is reassuring that most companies in England are playing their part by meeting their environmental obligations. Their compliance includes reducing emissions of pollutants and improving resource efficiency – and many businesses are looking beyond basic compliance, exploring how they can contribute to adapting and building England’s resilience to climate change and meeting net zero.”


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