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Government

New illegal waste and fly-tipping powers welcomed

New powers to tackle what the Westminster Government calls the serious problem of waste crime – illegal waste and fly-tipping- have been welcomed.

Waste crime cost the English economy more than £600m in 2015, including lost landfill tax revenues and clean-up costs, and can create problems for people who live or work nearby with odour, dust, litter, vermin, fly infestations, pollution and fires. Waste criminals also undercut genuine businesses who dispose of waste responsibly.

New powers will therefore be introduced for the Environment Agency (EA) to lock the gates or block access to problem waste sites to prevent thousands of tonnes of waste illegally building up. The powers will also enable the EA to force operators to clear all the waste at a problem waste site, not just the illegal waste. More than 850 new illegal waste sites were discovered by the EA in 2016-17.

The Government has also launched a new consultation to tackle crime and poor performance in the waste sector. Proposals include raising the bar required to hold EA waste permits, and putting a stop to criminals hiding their illegal activities by requiring them to register low-risk waste operations which are exempt from the need to hold a permit. The new powers for the EA are due by spring 2018, subject to parliamentary approval.

The consultation proposes raising awareness amongst householders, so people can check on the EA website to see if the recipient of their waste is licensed to take their waste, or their duty to pass waste to legitimate carriers.

It also suggests providing councils with the option of fining by fixed penalty notice those whose waste ends up fly-tipped or illegally dumped rather than having to pursue them through the courts. London saw over 360,000 fly-tipping incidents last year and the North West of England 128,000 incidents in 2016/17. This all follows the launch of the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan.

Environment Minister Therese Coffey said: “Waste crime and fly-tipping blight our communities and spoil our countryside, and we need determined action to tackle it. These new powers for the Environment Agency will curb the rise of waste sites that continue to operate outside the law. But we must all take responsibility for our waste to make sure it does not end up in the hands of criminals who will wilfully dump it. Our new consultation looks more widely at the waste sector and we are keen to hear from industry and the public how we can improve performance, tackle illegality and protect our precious environment.”

Martin Tett, the Local Government Association (LGA) Environment spokesman, said: “Clearing up fly-tipping costs councils more than £57 million a year – money that could be spent on other services, like caring for the elderly, protecting children or tackling homelessness. It is unacceptable that they are having to spend vast amounts each year tackling this scourge.

“Councils warn households to only use reputable operators who can prove they dispose of rubbish responsibly. This follows a significant rise in the so-called ‘man with van’ phenomenon, where cold callers offer to ‘dispose’ of unwanted household goods like fridges, mattresses, and furniture for cash, which are then fly-tipped. Councils will continue to work with residents to raise awareness of how to correctly dispose of household waste.

“We were pleased the Government responded to our call for councils to be able to apply Fixed Penalty Notices to fly-tippers – and this was a big step in the right direction. But when they take offenders to court, councils need a faster and more effective legal system which means fly-tippers are given hard-hitting fines for more serious offences.

“The Government should also consider asking manufacturers to provide more take-back services so people can hand in old furniture and mattresses when they buy new ones.”


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