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Fly-tipping, illegal tips and tax evasion are costing the UK more than half a billion pounds a year, according to a report on waste crime.

According to a report commissioned by the Environmental Services Association Education Trust (ESAET) and written by written by Eunomia Research & Consulting, the problem of crime in the waste and resource sector is a growing blight on our society and, although not a new issue, the rewards for such activity are far greater than ever before.

Mr. B. E. Dennis on behalf of the ESAET Board of Trustees said:

“Having worked in the waste industry for a large number of years, we have all seen first-hand the impact that this sort of crime can have on local communities, businesses and the environment. There is a growing sense that as the rewards relating to ‘waste crime’ grow, a culture of criminality is taking root in the industry.”

In the UK, waste crime is a wipe spread pestilence, on one side you have a builder fly tipping in order to save a few pounds and then on the other end of the spectrum you have illegal waste sites processing thousands of tonnes of waste, and although these operators seem legitimate they are misclassifying waste in order to evade a tax bill that could total millions of pounds.

In response to this, the Government has rightly implemented policy measures to support recycling and promote a resource economy, but these have raised the cost of legitimate waste disposal. Evading these costs allows criminals to profit; but while they gain, everyone else loses.

While waste crime can have serious environmental impacts, the motive is economic. It offers high rewards and relatively low risk of substantial penalty. It takes work away from legitimate, permitted waste operators, who therefore lose income. However, the profits come largely at the expense of the taxpayer.

Below is a table showing the costs of waste crime to the UK Economy:


Measures have already been implemented by government to try to tackle waste crime. The Environment Agency’s waste crime task force has given a welcome boost to enforcement efforts, and has helped to close down a record number of illegal waste sites.

HMRC has clarified the rules on what kinds of waste can be classified as inert, and the Sentencing Council’s review of guidance on the penalties for environmental crimes seems likely to improve on a current weakness in the enforcement system.

ESAETDespite this action, waste crime remains a substantial threat to the legitimate waste sector, and the resources available to tackle it are coming under increasing pressure. Yet cutting enforcement expenditure seems a false economy.

Modelling shows that, at the margin, each pound spent on enforcement is likely to yield a return of as much as £5.60. Of this £3.20 would be received directly by government in taxes, with the rest benefitting legitimate waste sector businesses and wider society.

Waste crime is increasingly of concern because of its economic impacts. Not every waste crime always harms the environment, but almost all damage law abiding individuals and businesses operating within the waste sector and deprives the government of tax income.

Waste crime:

  • undercuts legitimate waste businesses, making it harder for them to make a living while charging a fair price for their services;
  • reduces the government’s tax take, not just through illegal operators evading landfill tax, but by reducing the VAT and corporation tax that would otherwise be paid by legitimate businesses;
  • creates nuisance, disamenity and even danger for the public when waste is fly-tipped in the countryside, stored unsafely, or deliberately burned in the open;
  • endangers people in other countries when illegally exported waste is reprocessed in low tech and environmentally irresponsible ways to extract the highest value materials from it;
  • imposes costs on those who have to clear up after waste criminals: local authorities, the Environment Agency and private landowners;
  • is increasingly associated with organised criminal gangs, who may also be engaged in other forms of crime, who are “attracted to the trafficking of illicit waste and associated criminal activities because of the low-risk, high-profit nature of these criminal activities.”

The Environment Agency defines waste sites as being illegal if they:

“Do not have a permit or do not meet other legal requirements, such as a registered waste exemption.”

Tony Baker, Safety and Compliance Manager at GPT Waste said:

GPT Waste Management has robust management systems and arrangements in place to ensure we utilise top quality, legally compliant and ethically sound Service Providers.

Our Appraisal and Approval process is independently audited and verified by a UKAS accredited certification body. We fully comply with the requirements of the Quality and Environmental Management system standards ISO 9001 and 14001 respectively.

We expect our Service Providers to go beyond just fulfilling legal obligations and prior to approving their use for collecting and processing our Clients’ waste we ensure the following minimum objective evidence information is obtained:-

  • Waste Carriers Licence and any relevant Vehicle fleet licences etc. (FORS for e.g.)
  • Environmental Permit including their list of permitted wastes and any other relevant and legally required permits and registrations,
  • Health, Safety and Environmental Policies,
  • Copies of relevant regulator inspection reports,
  • Fate of waste confirmation and achievements,
  • Liability Insurance cover etc.

Client visits are arranged to show the Waste Producers where their waste is processed and periodical Duty of Care Audits are carried out by our Compliance Team.

GPT Waste Management’s Compliance Manager and team monitor the introduction, changes and amendments to statute in relation to Waste legislation, Environmental Legislation and Health and Safety Legislation. GPT’s Environmental Management System ISO 14001:2004 certification ensures GPT create and maintain a Legal Register.

This is managed by the Compliance Manager. Changes to legislation are communicated in writing to our Clients and via the GPT website. Each of our National Account Managers is fully briefed and kept up to date with legislative changes and communicate relevant information to their Clients and provide the appropriate course of action where necessary.

Illegal waste sites typically do not have planning permission and they often blight communities as a result of anti-social vehicle movements, noise, dust and odour, as well as other forms of pollution.

A financial analysis of illegal waste sites by the Environment Agency showed that £150–£200,000 of legitimate revenue is lost for each illegal site in operation. Central government bears 90% of this loss, with the remainder split between landfill operators, local authorities and skip hire operators.

For further information about Waste Crime, download the report here.


Environment Agency (2013) Cracking Down on Waste Crime: Waste Crime Report


The Guardian