UK Authorities Cracking Down on Illegal Dumping

Sixteen people received prison terms last year for major waste offenses, roughly three times more than in 2008. Fines and asset forfeitures also rose.

British courts in 2011 sent 16 people to prison for committing serious waste crimes offenses –- about three times more than the six who received such sentences in 2008, according to the Environment Agency’s first Annual Waste Crime Report.

It indicated 335 individuals and companies were successfully prosecuted in 2011 for serious waste offences, some of them reported anonymously to Crimestoppers or on the agency's incident reporting hotline. The 16 prison terms were handed out for crimes including running large-scale illegal waste sites and industrial-scale dumping. One case involved the dumping of more than 1 million tires across England, causing environmental damage and undercutting legitimate recyclers, according to the agency.

UK courts issued £1.7 million ($2.72 million in U.S. dollars) in fines for serious waste offenses in 2011, nearly £800,000 ($1.2 million) more than the previous year, and ordered £2.2 million ($3.52 million) worth of assets to be confiscated.

The report also indicated serious incidents related to the dumping of construction and demolition waste are increasing. While more than 750 large-scale illegal waste sites were shut down in the past year, the number of sites uncovered has risen because of increased intelligence developed by the Environment Agency's new £5 million ($8 million) Illegal Waste Sites Taskforce.

"Illegal waste sites are a blight on our communities which I am determined to root out," said Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman. "The new Illegal Waste Site Taskforce funded by Defra means these criminals have nowhere to hide, and we will be relentless in tracking them down. These criminals should know we are coming for them and they will feel the full force of the law."

"Waste crime can cause pollution, pose risks to people’s health and undercut legitimate businesses. We've stepped up the fight, and we are increasingly seeing waste offenders being made to pay for their crimes," added Andrew Higham, who heads the agency's National Environmental Crime Team. "But we are not complacent and there is more to do, particularly around cracking down on illegal waste sites. Our new task force will help us break this cycle. However, we can't do it on our own. We need everyone to play their part in helping to tackle waste crime."

Certain types of waste cannot be disposed in landfills in Britain and instead must be recovered, recycled, or disposed of in other ways, such as by incineration. Banned wastes include:

  • any liquid waste
  • infectious medical or veterinary waste
  • whole or shredded used tires
  • waste that might cause a problem in the landfill (such as hot or chemically active waste)
  • any waste that does not meet the waste acceptance criteria for that class of landfill