A new taskforce that brings together law enforcement agencies, environmental regulators, HMRC and the National Crime Agency to crackdown on waste criminals has been launched.
The Joint Unit for Waste Crime (JUWC) will target serious and organised waste crime, such as falsely labelling waste so it can be exported to unsuspecting countries and dumping hazardous materials on private land.
Serious and organised waste crime is estimated to cost the UK economy at least £600 million a year.
By working together, the joint partners will be able to share their intelligence and resources more easily to take swifter action when investigation criminal waste operations and other connected illegal activities, such as money laundering and human trafficking.
The new Unit, which bolsters the Environment Agency’s (EA) existing efforts to tackle waste crime, will conduct site inspections, make arrests and prosecutions and upon conviction, push for heavy fines and prison sentences.
Last year, the EA stopped illegal waste activity at 912 sites – 12% more than the previous year, which resulted in businesses and individuals being fined almost £2.8 million for environmental offences in 2018.
Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers said: “Waste crime is a scourge on our environment and this new Joint Unit for Waste Crime will crack down on the criminals responsible.
“Criminals are shifting their focus to waste crime as they expand their illegal activities and it’s vital that we take action. The Joint Unit will shut down illegal waste sites, catch criminals before they can do further harm to our environment and local communities, and make them pay for the damage they have done through custodial sentences and the payment of compensation.”