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Winning the war against waste criminals?

  • United Kingdom
  • Environment


The government has today launched a new unit bringing together UK environmental regulators and law enforcement agencies to target waste crime.

The Joint Unit for Waste Crime (JUWC) will bring together law enforcement agencies, HMRC, the National Crime Agency (NCA) and environmental regulators in the war against serious and organised waste crime, which is estimated to cost the UK economy at least £600 million each year. The Environment Agency in 2019 stopped illegal waste activity at 912 sites; an increase of 12 percent from 2018 where fines of £2.8 million were also secured against environmental offences. In a political climate of less regulatory crimes generally being prosecuted, this is a step change. Proceeds of Crime Act proceedings are now also actively on the agenda.

The JUWC’s ambit is to increase awareness of waste crime through joint investigations and prosecutions, seeking significant financial penalties and custodial sentences for unscrupulous directors and senior managers. The JUWC also seek to recover the costs associated with any remedial works or compensation arising from the impact such illegal activities have on the community.

The joint initiative will enable the sharing of intelligence and resources resulting in a streamlined approach in undertaking investigations and bringing offenders to Court. The combined focus of these multi-agencies including counterparts in Scotland and Wales should assist in the overall investigation and surveillance of other large scale organised crime enterprises being pursued by the NCA and the HMRC.

Additionally, the JUWC also hopes to drive up levels of performance within the industry and prevent further harm to the environment and local communities where these sites operate. The Environment Secretary Theresa Villers, an advocate of the new taskforce said “waste crime is a scourge on our environment and this new unit will crack down on those criminals responsible.” This is supported by the government’s increase of the waste crime budget by £60 million for its 2014-22 blueprint strategy. The launch of the JUWC seems particularly timely following Sir David Attenborough’s interview today on climate change and the greater need to protect our planet.

Organisations are advised to review environment permits, waste transfer notes and undertake due diligence of any waste disposal contractors to ensure compliance with industry standards and the regulatory framework across the entire waste disposal process. Clearly the PR implications of conviction are also enormous.