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Waste crime

16th October 2013 Posted by

Earlier this week the Environment Agency issued a report on waste crime (‘Cracking Down on Waste Crime. Waste Crime Report 2012-2013‘). The report acknowledged that while there has been an increase in the crackdown on illegal waste management activity, crime is a significant issue in our sector. It is difficult to appreciate the localised impact of that crime, in the same way as you can only truly understand the impact of a burglary when it’s happened to you.

Our sector is investing billions of pounds in new systems and infrastructure to move away from landfill towards an industry that creates products by recovering resources.

Issues such as fly tipping, waste being wrongly classified and the operation of illegal sites can look relatively small compared to the total number of active, legal sites operating, but then so do the number of burgled houses compared to those not subject to crime. The Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) recently estimated that waste crime is a $12 billion industry with £1 billion being taken from legitimate operators and local authorities. That’s no small amount on a national scale and devastating on a local basis.

Consider a company that develops a new recycling and recovered fuel plant, investing a lot of time and tens of millions of pounds in the process. Imagine that once this new plant is up and running, another company sets up operations nearby, operating in an illegal manner. With much lower overheads, the illegal operation could easily undercut the legitimate operator. With regulatory and legal action taking months, if not years, the investors and developers are left in a difficult position. With those months or years of impaired or no profits, they would be ever more wary of the risks involved when investing in waste and resource recovery infrastructure in the UK.

No investment is without risk, but we need to protect the UK as an attractive place to build new waste infrastructure. Waste crime must be prevented where possible and on a local, plant by plant basis, it must be stopped quickly and effectively.

Making the UK a good place for investors and developers is essential to secure the huge investment required on our journey to a more sustainable future.

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