New powers to tackle waste crime

New powers have been introduced under The Waste Enforcement (England and Wales) Regulations 2018 to help Natural Resources Wales and local authorities tackle illegal activity in the waste sector, estimated to cost the Welsh economy up to £32m a year. Most of the waste industry operates responsibly but there are a small number of operators whose activities either fail to meet the required standards of their permit/exemptions or operate illegally with no permit or exemption in place. These sites can cause pollution to the environment and endanger human health. They pose a risk of fire, water pollution and cause other issues such as odour, litter and fly infestations which affect surrounding communities. 

NRW will now be able to act more quickly at problematic waste sites, for example, by locking the gates to stop more waste entering the site in order to prevent a risk of serious pollution. As well as this, to reduce the impact of abandoned waste, NRW and Local Authorities will also have the powers widened to take action on occupiers and landowners requiring them to take steps (including removal) to deal with waste kept unlawfully on land regardless of whether it was originally deposited lawfully under a permit or exemption. 

These new powers have some implications for occupiers and landowners (including the farming community) as they may become responsible for the removal of waste from their site where land is being used for waste activities. We expect landowners will need to be vigilant and monitor their land from time to time, particularly those renting out land or buildings to ensure their tenants comply with the conditions of their lease and act in accordance with any planning or environmental legislation. We will be contacting landowners for sites we identify as being at high risk of abandonment. 

Tips for landowners

  • Check any empty land and property regularly and make sure it is secure
  • Carry out rigorous checks on prospective and new tenants. Land and property owners have a responsibility to ensure anyone leasing their land/property complies with regulations. They may be committing an offence by allowing waste to be stored on land or property without the relevant permissions which could leave them liable to prosecution and significant clean-up costs
  • Where a tenant is planning on carrying out a waste activity, check correct permissions are in place by using public register or contacting NRW
  • Be aware of potential liabilities from abandoned waste or illegal or polluting operations
  • Consider leases and insurance on rented land and ensure there is provision for abandonment of waste
  • Be vigilant and report any unusual behaviour
  • Anyone who sees waste crime taking place is advised not to approach as these people can be dangerous. Report it by contacting NRW on 0300 065 3000 or anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555111 

Notes

The power to prohibit access to premises will come into force 21 days after the regulations are made. This power will come into force by beginning of April.

Following consultation with the industry, the Minister has introduced a transitional period for the power to remove waste from land to come into force two months after the regulations are made. This power will come into force by mid May 2018.