Organised crime increasing threat to waste industry

Posted on 6th February, 2014

Organised crime is infiltrating the waste sector and becoming an increasing cause for concern, according to major voices in the industry.

Last year the independent Mills report revealed that the Northern Ireland waste sector was vulnerable to crime, and claimed that the whole of the UK was at risk.

Christopher Mills, former director of the Welsh Environment Agency, worked with the Environment Agency (EA), Natural Resources Wales (NRW) and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), while compiling the report.

He said: “The infiltration of organised crime into particularly waste crime was considered to be a much bigger problem in England and Scotland than in Wales and the Republic of Ireland.

“There is a serious problem in England and Scotland and the EA and SEPA are struggling to resource the cases that they are uncovering.”

Mills claimed that the extent of criminal involvement can in part be measured by the number of successful prosecutions.

In response, an EA spokesperson said: “Prosecution isn’t the only solution to waste crime. Over the last year we have focused on preventing illegal waste exports and closing down illegal waste sites.

“We have been concentrating our prosecutions on the most serious and complex cases. These more complex investigations take longer to bring to court.”

A SEPA spokesperson said the agency was fully aware of the threat posed by serious organised crime in the waste industry.

He added that SEPA was tackling the issue through a commitment to the Environmental Crime Taskforce (ECTF) and the formation of the Waste Crime Team, which was formed in December 2013.

An NRW spokesperson agreed that organised crime groups “remain a threat.”

He added: “Increasingly, NRW is targeting its regulation more effectively by focusing on the flow of priority wastes, such as WEEE and Refuse derived fuel (RDF), through their whole cycle from collection to final recycling or disposal. “

Mills cited three particular areas that are “vulnerable to criminality”:

  • Producer responsibility
  • Handling of WEEE
  • Handling of RDF