Successful first year for waste crime taskforce despite pandemic

January 28, 2021

The Joint Unit for Waste Crime has reached its first anniversary of cracking down on criminals and gangs who commit serious and organised waste crime.

Launched in January 2020, 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 –  estimated to cost the UK economy at least £600 million a year and cause great harm to the environment, local communities and businesses.

Despite the Joint Unit beginning just as the Covid-19 pandemic struck, the taskforce worked to share intelligence, identify illegal activity and conduct numerous operations to disrupt illegal activities, leading to arrests of suspected waste criminals. The taskforce has strengthened in number, with the British Transport Police and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency joining the Unit in September.

Nicola Lawton, JUWC Deputy Director for Enforcement, said: “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.

“In the last year we have conducted numerous multi-agency operations against groups and individuals who are causing serious harm, and the Unit is now leading over 20 operations into offending that spans the UK and involves not only waste crime but other criminal activities including firearms, drugs, vehicle theft and money laundering.

“The Joint Unit has entered 2021 stronger and more determined than ever to tackle those engaged in serious and organised waste crime.”

Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said: “The past year has been a real challenge for our enforcement agencies as they carry out their important work, and I commend the Joint Unit for Waste Crime for its vital efforts in disrupting the criminals and gangs 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.”

Much waste crime is 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.

JUWC case studies

The JUWC is comprised of eight partners: Environment Agency (EA), Natural Resources Wales, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, the Northern Ireland Environment Agency, the police, the National Crime Agency, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and the British Transport Police.

In addition to the JUWC, the EA conducts its own operations to disrupt criminal waste activity. In 2019, the Agency stopped illegal waste activity at 912 sites – 12% more than the previous year. As a result of prosecutions taken by the EA, businesses and individuals were fined almost £2.8 million for environmental offences in 2018.


This is valid as of 28th January 2021.

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