SEPA clamps down on waste crime with upcoming days of action

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) is leading three days of action between the 17 and 19 May, aimed at tackling cross border criminal activity in the waste industry.

Targeted interventions are due to take place as part of Operation Nortese, involving site inspections, roadside stops and port checks in collaboration with a range of partner enforcement agencies such as the Environment Agency, Police Scotland, the British Transport Police, HM Revenue and Customs, the Scottish Business Resilience Centre, and Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency.

The operation forms part of SEPA’s ongoing LIFE SMART Waste project which aims to develop new and innovative strategies for tackling and disrupting waste crime. The five year project is funded by the EU LIFE+ Programme with the objective of improving intelligence gathering between European agencies and identifying challenging waste streams and the criminal enterprises which seek to exploit the industry.

Terry A’Hearn, SEPA’s Chief Executive, said: “The upcoming days of action are specifically designed to help us identify the scale of illicit waste transport in Scotland and pilot a series of practical approaches which will improve our ability to tackle the issue. They will also carry the message that compliance is not optional and that our grip is always tightening on the pathways which criminal elements continue to use.

“While we know that the vast majority of operators behave responsibly, the actions of those who choose to act outside the law continue to have an adverse impact on our environment, our society and the economy.

“The multi-agency approach to this initiative is of paramount importance and the lessons learned will ensure that cross border waste crime continues to be tackled effectively in future.”

Interventions will be carried out jointly between SEPA and key partners during each day of action to ensure a common understanding of inspection techniques and intelligence sharing. As part of the exercise, vehicles and waste operations will be targeted across Northern England, the Scottish Borders and Dumfries and Galloway, while certain interventions will also require close coordination with environmental counterparts in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Dave Edwardson, Enforcement Team Leader at the Environment Agency said: “Waste Officers from the Environment Agency will be taking this opportunity to gather important intelligence about the movement of waste across the border.

Waste crime undermines legitimate business and affects the environment, and local communities. This multi-agency approach ‎will allow us to investigate the extent of waste activity and help us focus our resources in the right places.”

Deputy Chief Constable Ruaraidh Nicolson, responsible for Crime and Operational Support at Police Scotland, said:

“Police Scotland is committed to working with partners to ensure cross-border criminal activity in the waste industry cannot ever gain a significant foothold in Scotland.

“We will robustly reinforce the legal responsibilities incumbent upon companies operating in the waste industry whenever any wrongdoing is detected. This is a nationwide issue and a matter which can affect any part of the country.

“Working in conjunction with SEPA, as well as several other partner organisations, Police Scotland is committed to reduce the risk to our communities from waste industry crime.”

As part of the initiative SEPA has distributed a ‘Clamping Down on Waste Crime’ leaflet to almost 8,000 registered waste carriers and brokers, to remind them of their responsibilities and where to gain further advice on compliance. The information leaflets will also be handed out by SEPA staff during the operation and can be viewed on the SEPA website.

If you are involved in the waste industry, says SEPA, you have a duty to carry out your activities legally and responsibly. As Scotland’s environmental regulator, SEPA will always work with operators to ensure their business remains compliant. Persistent offenders however will be subject to enforcement action and a report to the Procurator Fiscal if necessary, to ensure that Scotland’s natural environment is protected and enhanced.