Oh my giddy aunt this is a surprise

It\’s a relatively recent but decidedly nasty business, waste crime: nasty for the environment, for the people affected, and for legitimate businesses that pay for waste-disposal licences, permits and tipping fees. It ranges from small, individual operations to large, complex networks involving multiple sites, companies and sometimes countries.

And it is a big, and growing business: according to the Environment Agency\’s first national report on waste crime, published recently, there were 1,175 illegal waste sites in England and Wales as of March this year.

Most deal in construction and demolition waste, the biggest single category; others take household and commercial, and end-of-life vehicles (what with the oil, the battery, the brake fluid and the air-con, depolluting a dead car is expensive. Far cheaper, as the gang at the end of Bowdler\’s garden knew, to just reclaim the metal and dump the rest).

Until quite late in the last century, of course, we barely cared about this at all. But a succession of laws – the Deposit of Poisonous Wastes Act in 1972, the Control of Pollution Act two years later, and most significantly the Environment Protection Act in 1990 – have raised awareness and imposed increasingly tough restrictions on what we may dispose of, and how. These days, we devote £17m of public money a year to tackling waste crime. Those who commit it are united mostly by the prospect of quick, easy money and a frequently breathtaking disregard for the the law, the natural environment and their neighbours.

Make legal recycling more expensive and more difficult and people start to illegally recycle.

This is a surprise to whom?

It is all, obviously, about the money: saving it, for the waste producer; making it, for the illegal operator. \”Broadly speaking, it\’s at least 50% cheaper to get rid of stuff illegally,\” says Rutherford. \”Here, a legitimate company will charge £180-£200 per skip. The bad boys will be asking £100-120, cash. You can see the temptation for the producer.\”

Meanwhile, of course, people like Tim will be \”pocketing the £100; avoiding the costs of all the various permits, licences and taxes; burning the waste; pulling out any valuable scrap metal, and selling it. You rent the corner of a farmyard or a field or an industrial unit, buy a few skips, and you start dumping. It\’s really very easy money.\”

I mean seriously: who would have thought it?

11 comments on “Oh my giddy aunt this is a surprise

  1. Illegal dumping isn’t always a bad thing; I’ve carpeted the children’s bedroom and built a small wall from left-overs dumped down the lane. Not to mention the bonfire material.

  2. Slightly off topic but inspired by Richard at #1.

    “Recycling” was always one of the big issues in the dockyard. Stuff ends up in a skip, you could use it – but you should’t take it. That’s theft – although that didn’t always prevent people trying or even succeeding. Of course the issue is how do you prevent people deliberately throwing stuff away just so they, or a mate, can ‘liberate it’.

    IIRC, one of the Port Admiral’s was reprimanded for seeing a flag pole in a skip and sending his Flag Lt to liberate it for the Admiral’s local scout hut.

    Disclaimer: I may, or may not, have occasionally liberated the odd thing or two. Sometimes, even with demi-official sanction (particularly returned worn clothing was claimed to be given to cadet units and stored in the clothing store until they had a couple of bags for you.)

  3. Or, disorderly behaviour under s5 POA96, possibly. Noting the statutory defence of “reasonableness” as well as “nobody around here was that bothered, officer – we all know there aren’t enough loos.”

  4. This might just be some regulation we can’t pin on the EU.
    I took my old van to the official dump recently. Handed over the Carte Grise (ownership doc). Got asked to drive it over there.
    30 seconds later it was being shaken like a dead fox in the jaws of a hound. They didn’t even take out the battery first.

  5. Most waste regs are crony capitalism at it’s worst.

    Make breaking motor vehicles too expensive for small firms, and the big firms win out you see.

    Government’s hate small breakers yards cos it’s generally a trade conducted in cash, and which for some strange reason generates surprisingly little income tax revenue.

    A lot of the problems are because the rules are too “one size fits all” – when I worked at a local quarry there was a massive great ho-ha because we knocked down a load of brickwork, and just shoveled it into the stone crushers to get mixed in with low grade MOT stuff – apparently it came under the hazardous waste directive or summat and we needed a licence to use it.

    It’s worth noting that small motor breakers are much more efficient than big ones – if you sell me a rusty MOT failed Landrover Tdi Discovery, I would give you £300-£400, will throw it in the workshop, gas it up, sell on the engine, gearbox, differentials, power steering box, and send the rest in a scrap (less stuff like mirrors or even doors if they are decent enough). I end up with about £300 profit for about three evenings work, and everyone is a winner.

    If you roll up to a big breakers yard with that, they will give you what it weighs (£150ish) and almost certainly just bale the lot.

    The snag is that if I do ^^^ more than about 6 times a year, I’m deemed to be doing it commercially (private individuals can still break the odd vehicle at home if they wish), and promptly get regulated out of existence.

    (Obviously, I operate completely legitimately at all times, and any suggestion I may be connected to the “black economy” will be treated as a completely malicious allegation… ;-)

  6. There’s the odd dodgy “farmer” who basically keep a few beasts as a front for the waste disposal business – rather more diggers and tankers on the premises than one might expect, trenches dug, filled and covered, flexible pipes over the fields…

  7. I was a handyman in a previous life. Used to be able to go the local recycling centre to dump my waste. All I needed was a ticket per 25kg bag of waste bought for a few quid from the council. Handed in ticket, dumped bag. Added up, cost would be more than keeping a skip, but was way easier since didn’t need to store a skip nor pay up front.

    When the recycling was taken over by SITA, they banned vans and told traders to travel over 30 miles to dump at the major centre and then it would be done by weight, minimum 1t. After illegal dumping shot up overnight, they amended it slightly to allow traders to dump once a month, but you had to apply at the HQ with 3 forms of ID.

    Illegal dumping still goes on.

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