Last reviewed 19 January 2021

The Joint Unit for Waste Crime (JWCU) is celebrating success in cracking down on waste criminals and gangs, despite Covid restrictions.

The multi-agency taskforce was the first of its kind to formally bring together environmental regulators and law enforcement agencies to tackle serious and organised waste crime across the UK, which is estimated to cost the UK economy at least £600 million a year. It also causes serious damage to the environment, businesses and local communities.

JWCU faced difficult challenges during its first year as the Covid-19 pandemic struck, but according to its Director, Nicola Lawton, the crime unit was “still able to conduct numerous multi-agency operations against groups and individuals who are causing serious harm”.

“The JUWC is crucial to our fight against serious and organised waste crime, and despite the Covid-19 pandemic we have continued to target and disrupt the criminal networks who are undermining the waste industry and the environment” Lawton added.

Waste crime is mostly carried out by gangs and individuals who operate bogus waste services, accepting payment for disposal without having the necessary permits for transportation or storage. Waste is then illegally dumped on private and public land to avoid fees and landfill taxes, which causes significant harm to businesses, local communities and the environment.

Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said she recognised the past year had been a real challenge for enforcement agencies and commended the JUWC for its work in disrupting the criminals; “who show complete disregard for our waste industry, local communities and the environment”.

“We are absolutely committed to clamping down on waste crime and I look forward to seeing the Joint Unit go from strength to strength over the coming years as it protects the public and the environment from harm and brings waste criminals to justice.”

Over the past 12 months, the JUWC has dealt with criminals that have intimidated environment officers and taken action against hundreds of unregistered waste transporters and illegal waste site operators.

Other Environment Agency operations stopped illegal waste activity at 912 sites; 12% up on the previous year. As a result of prosecutions taken by the EA, businesses and individuals were fined almost £2.8 million for environmental offences.

The EA has released guidance to help businesses deal with accumulating waste on site. Further details on plastic waste storage is available here.