A new report from an environmental consultancy has revealed waste crime costs the country over £600m a year - the cost of 34 new schools - and blights local communities.
The report, written by Eunomia and supported by the ‘Right Waste Right Place’ campaign, showed that waste crime incurred losses to the legitimate waste industry and the taxpayer of £604m a year.
Entitled Rethinking Waste Crime, the report said this is the equivalent to building 34 new secondary schools or paying for 4,137 NHS hospital beds per year.
It also highlighted that illegal waste operators blight local communities, damage the environment, harm legitimate businesses and deprive the government of tax revenue.
Rethinking Waste Crime found the majority of waste crime is associated with waste from businesses, not from households.
It suggests the most serious waste crime falls into one of six categories: illegal waste sites, inaccurately describing waste, illegal export of waste, illegal burning of waste, fly tipping and serious breaches of permit conditions.
According to the report, launched yesterday at the House of Commons, the waste sector - which adds £6.6bn of value to the UK economy - has changed dramatically in the last two decades and regulation has not kept up.
It recommends a series of reforms including tightening up regulation, increasing enforcement, banning serious and repeat offenders from the sector, and securing new sources of funding from criminals for the Environment Agency.
‘Despite additional funding for regulators and stronger enforcement powers, waste crime is more entrenched than ever,’ said Jacob Hayler, executive director at the Environmental Services Association.
'Clearly, we need a different approach which targets the underlying causes of crime in our sector and which roots out the prevailing culture which allows waste crime to flourish. ‘This report highlights the weakness in the current regime and puts forward ambitious recommendations aimed at stopping waste crime once and for all.’
Mike Brown, managing director from Eunomia said: ‘Regulators have been under-resourced and encouraged to take a light-touch approach in order to be business friendly. Ironically, this is actually harming the interests of legitimate waste businesses while giving criminals an easy ride.
‘The solution isn’t to abandon the progress we’ve made, but to modernise regulation to support our increasingly circular economy.’