TV revelations

SEPA helps disclose criminal waste dumping

SEPA staff have teams dealing with illegal activities

Illegal dumping of waste will feature in a television documentary which tracks a team of investigators from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency.

The programme titled ‘Dirty Business’ delves into criminal waste activities – ranging from ‘man with a van’ flytipping and waste being burnt in a drum to large scale illegal activities with links to serious organised crime such as abandoned lorry trailers bursting with up to 41 tonnes of waste and illegal landfills.

The documentary sees BBC presenter Sam Poling shadowing staff on complex investigations including a site visit to an unidentified location, where a criminal gang has buried large amounts of waste underground resulting in environmental impact from the release of harmful gases and liquids as the illegal deposit degrades.

He also accompanies SEPA staff to a non-compliant site and on a site visit to a legitimate waste operator to see how businesses should be operating to stay within the law and discovers how criminals undercutting these types of businesses can impact on the industry.

Waste crime has a serious and detrimental impact on the environment, communities and compliant businesses, costing Scottish taxpayers tens of millions a year in clean-up costs, avoided tax and lost revenue, says SEPA.

As part of its ongoing commitment to tackle environmental crime and as an environment protection agency ready to tackle the challenges of the 21st Century, SEPA launched a dedicated intelligence and enforcement function in October 2019 to deal with those types of growing activities.

SEPA’S investigative waste enforcement work includes the monitoring of over 234 active cases including 31 high priority sites, some linked to serious and organised crime activities.

The agency said it works closely with partners such as Police Scotland, the Joint Unit for Waste Crime, Serious Organised Crime Task Force and cross border agencies to share information and work together to use powers that partners have to tackle this behaviour, using the latest technologies to help ensure we detect criminal activity and have the most accurate picture possible.

Jennifer Shearer, head of enforcement at SEPA, said: “We are warning criminals – your activities are firmly in the spotlight and compliance with Scotland’s environmental laws is non-negotiable. Our dedicated enforcement unit is focussing our efforts on tackling the most serious non-compliance and illegal activity.

“Waste crime is best tackled on a preventative level and this involves a ‘Team Scotland’ partner led approach. By taking part in this programme we aim to highlight the extensive work that SEPA does and make everyone aware of duties they have in assisting in the disruption of these types of activity.

“For us deterring waste crime will take more than issuing fines and taking prosecutions where possible. It requires Scotland to realise the potential in developing vacant and derelict land for better use, engage in multi-agency partnerships and nurture urban and rural communities.

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“In Scotland, businesses committed to doing the right thing by our environment will find a regulator that supports innovation and excellence. For those who do the wrong thing they’ll find a regulator that won’t hesitate to act. It is vital that businesses and individuals realise their duty of care, as the best way to stop waste criminals is to cut off their routes to make money.

“Criminals are resourceful, inventive and will find new ways to break the law – especially when money is involved, but Scotland’s enforcement agencies are working together to make sure we find them and stop them.”

Cabinet Secretary for Justice Keith Brown said: “The Scottish Government and partners on the Serious Organised Crime Taskforce are fully committed to disrupting those who see waste disposal as a money-making enterprise that sits alongside other crime types such as violence, drugs, weapons and money laundering.

“These criminals will do anything to increase their wealth through undermining legitimate waste businesses and tricking unsuspecting customers. Partners on the taskforce will use every means at their disposal to ensure these illegal practices stop and that those who dump waste illegally are held accountable.”

Dirty Business, BBC Disclosures, 7pm tonight

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