Gove launches review into ‘organised waste crime’

Environment secretary Michael Gove has launched a three month review into serious and organised waste crime, and the current and potential response to it.

And, at the same time, the Home Office has warned that “people are being conned into placing contracts with dodgy waste firms”.

Waste crime
The review will run from June to September 2018

The review, which will cover England only, was announced today (10 June) by Environment Secretary Michael Gove as part of a move to “beef up” the government’s approach in its fight to “tackle the scourge of waste crime”.

But, although Mr Gove referenced flytipping in his comments, flytipping and smaller waste crime incidents will not be examined unless they are linked to the main aim of understanding “organised criminality”.

The focus will be on organised criminal involvement in waste crime, characteristics of criminal enterprises, intelligence gathering and enforcement effectiveness. And, the work will will directly inform a strategic approach to waste crime, which will be published in the resources and waste strategy due out later this year.


Mr Gove said: “Organised criminals running illegal waste dumps and fly-tipping are blighting local communities. They cost our economy vast amounts of money, pollute our environment and harm our wildlife. We must crack-down on these criminals who have no regard for the impact they have on peoples’ lives. The time is right for us to look at how we can best tackle these antisocial and inexcusable crimes.”

“We must crack-down on these criminals who have no regard for the impact they have on peoples’ lives.”

Michael Gove
Environment Secretary

The review will:

  • Consider the types of crimes being committed and organised crime groups involved
  • Consider the environmental, community and economic impacts of serious and organised waste crime
  • Consider how the Environment Agency, other organisations, and the law enforcement system can work together to tackle the threat
  • Make recommendations for a strategic approach to serious and organised waste crime.

‘Dodgy waste firms’

The comments from Mr Gove were endorsed by the minister of state for security and economic crime, Ben Wallace. He said: “Organised crime groups exploit any opportunity to make money. Our local communities are being scarred by the illegal dumping of waste, while at the same time people are being conned into placing contracts with dodgy waste firms.

“We are committed to ending this scourge and I look forward to exploring what more DEFRA, local authorities, the private sector and police can do on this issue.”

Mr Wallace noted that more than 850 new illegal waste sites were discovered by the Environment Agency in 2016-17. “While an average of two illegal waste sites are shut down every day, they continue to create severe problems for local communities and business, particularly in rural areas, as well as posing a risk to key national infrastructure.”

And, a study by the Home Office is also highlighted. This suggested that “criminals may also use waste management activities such as operating illegal waste sites as a cover for crimes such as theft, human trafficking, fraud, drugs supply, firearms supply and money laundering.”

Red forecast

Today’s review announcement comes after a warning earlier this year (see story) from the Environment Agency itself which said it is likely to fail to cope with illegal waste sites this year. The Environment Agency gave itself a ‘red’ forecast, which means it is unlikely to meet its 2018 financial year target to reduce the number of high risk illegal waste sites in England.

Lizzie Noel

Defra board member Lizzie Noel is to chair the review

The Call for Evidence and the review aims to allow a wide range of views over to be submitted over “ways to crack-down further on Organised Crime Groups (OCGs), who profit from waste crime”. It will be chaired by Lizzie Noel, a non-executive director at Defra, who said: “This review is an opportunity to properly understand the extent of this criminal activity, and I look forward to working with a range of partners to ensure our response is robust and effective.”

Ms Noel will be supported by Julia Mulligan, police and crime commissioner for North Yorkshire; former top Defra waste official Colin Church, who is now chief executive of the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM); and Craig Naylor, deputy chief constable in Lincolnshire Police.


In implementing the review, the review team are also to take account of:

  • the enforcement landscape and the multiple organisations involved
  • the sustainability, scalability, deliverability and cost-benefit trade-offs of responses to serious and organised waste crime
  • wider work underway in Defra, the Home Office and the Environment Agency
  • lessons learnt and examples of best practice from a wide range of stakeholders

CIWM welcome

CIWM said it welcomed the announcement of the review. “The Defra-led review will assess the level of threat posed by serious and organised waste crime, whether the Environment Agency has the right powers, capabilities and capacity to tackle the threat, and what is needed to support effective working with other law enforcement bodies.”

The role of the Environment Agency will feature in the review

Chief executive Dr Church, who is on the advisory panel for the review, said: “By its very nature, serious and organised crime often takes place out of plain sight. This means that intelligence gathering and sharing, as well as collaborative working and the pooling of resources between the various law enforcement agencies, is essential.

“The government and the sector have already been working closely together to tackle this scourge and this review will put forward recommendations to help develop even smarter and more effective frameworks to deal with this problem.”

Waste Crime Secretariat

The secretariat for the review can be contacted by email at or by post at: Serious and Organised Waste Crime Review Secretariat, Strategy Unit, Defra, Horizon House, Deanery Road, Bristol, BS1 5AH

A questionnaire is available on line as part of the review and is available HERE. Questions posed include:

  1. How effective are enforcement authorities and industry at preventing and responding to serious and organised waste crime? Please explain your answer.
  2. How well do agencies and organisations work together to prevent and tackle serious and organised waste crime? Please explain your answer.
  3. Please tell us about the character of organised crime groups involved in waste crime. For example: Are groups working legally, in part (that is, hiding behind legitimate businesses)? Are they characterised by violence? Are they local or working across national/international boundaries?

If you wish to comment on this article and the review please do below, or send your views to:


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