The Environment Agencyhas announced that successful prosecutions for waste crimes resulted in fines totalling £3 million last year. The amount has doubled in the last five years.
– from flytipping to the illegal export of waste – has led to an increase in the severity of penalties handed down by the courts. This week the Environment Agency secured its largest ever waste fine – £261,268 – after the soft drinks company Red Bull failed to meet its requirements to recover and recycle packaging waste. The company was ordered to pay £3,755 in costs to the Environment Agency as well as compensation of £6,854.
The figures released today show that the Government’s environment watchdog prosecuted 454 waste cases last year, many of which resulted in hefty fines, and even prison sentences. Offences range from storing waste without a licence to the large scale flytipping of hazardous waste, and the illegal export of waste for disposal abroad.
In the last twelve months the Environment Agency has created a new National Environmental Crime Team made up of around 20 former-detectives, intelligence officers and forensics experts. The team was set up to target organised waste crime, and they are specialists in recovering the proceeds of crime.
Earlier this month a West Midlands based metal recovery company was fined £15,000 and ordered to pay over £7,000 in prosecution costs for attempting to illegally export hazardous waste cables to China. The container of cables never made it onto the boat, as the lorry carrying the waste to the port of Felixstowe was reported to the Environment Agency after it was spotted leaking onto the road. Tests by Environment Agency chemists found the leaking liquid contained mineral oil as well as carcinogenic coal tar. The oil was contained by absorbent booms to prevent it polluting the drains and roadside soil.
Also in July a building and joinery company was ordered to pay over £15,000 in fines and costs after illegally keeping and treating thousands of tonnes of waste on a farm in the Midlands without a licence. The waste, which was kept on open fields, included builders’ rubble, plastic, smouldering green waste and broken furniture. As well as blighting the local landscape, by keeping and burning waste without environmental controls this site risked contaminating the surrounding land and groundwater.
In May a serial fly tipper was jailed for two and a half years for repeatedly collecting household and business waste for a fee, and then dumping it around Bristol and the surrounding countryside. His illegal activities cost the Environment Agency, local landowners and the local authorities tens of thousands of pounds in investigation and clean up costs. After the man was arrested, reports of fly tipping in and around Bristol decreased by over 30 per cent.
Liz Parkes, Head of Waste and Resource Management at the Environment Agency, said:
"This is not about people putting rubbish in the wrong bins – we concentrate on those individuals and companies whose illegal activities have the potential to cause serious damage to the environment.
"The rules on how to handle, transport and dispose of waste are in place to protect the environment and people’s health, in this country and abroad. The Environment Agency takes swift and decisive action against anyone who flouts these strict controls.
"The increase in the level of fines reflects how seriously the Environment Agency and the courts are taking waste offences."