THE number of people jailed for serious waste crime offences has almost trebled in the last three years, an Environment Agency study has found.
In its first annual waste crime report, the agency revealed that organised gangs continue to have blatant disregard for communities, dumping waste in towns and cities and using areas around motorways to run large-scale illegal waste operations.
The figures also show 335 individuals and companies were prosecuted in 2011 for serious waste offences as the agency continued its crackdown on big-time offenders.
Sixteen people were handed custodial sentences last year – there were just six in 2009 – for crimes including running large-scale illegal waste sites and industrial-scale dumping. Among them was businessman Carl Steele who dumped more than one million tyres across England, causing environmental damage and undercutting legitimate tyre recyclers.
The new figures also exposed a rise in the number and size of financial penalties handed out. Last year, the courts issued £1.7m in fines for serious offences, nearly £800,000 more than the previous year. The highest single fine issued was £170,000.
Courts also ordered a total of £2.2m worth of assets to be confiscated from criminals who had made money through illegal waste activity. Among the 26 Proceeds of Crime Act prosecutions brought by the Environment Agency in 2011 was a Crown Court order against a Berkshire businessman who ran an illegal waste company to pay back over £800,000.
The agency has 132 waste-related financial investigations ongoing. While there is “definite progress” in tackling serious waste crime, the report also highlights a number of challenges including a rise in the number of serious incidents related to the dumping of construction and demolition waste.