Six people have been arrested on suspicion of illegally dumping vast quantities of waste across England, in addition to using forced labour.
The large-scale operation involved 40 Environment Agency officers, supported by four police forces, Home Office Immigration officers and Social Services, who arrested the men in a series of dawn raids.
Across the waste sites in question, 17 migrant workers were found. Although immigration officers have since confirmed they are European and so working legally, police may now press forced labour charges due to working conditions.
Officers were initially alerted to a site managed by Waste4Fuel in Orpington, Kent, which appeared to be abandoned, leaving a large amount of waste behind. The gang in question appear to have been linked to the Orpington site, before spreading throughout England, opening sites in Bristol, Scunthorpe and Newark, Nottinghamshire, where they obtained recycling contracts and illegally stockpiled huge quantities of potentially hazardous waste. Environment Agency officers are investigating the possible presence of asbestos among the piles of rubbish.
Head of the Environment Agency’s National Investigation Team Andy Higham commented: ‘The Environment Agency will relentlessly target organised criminals who risk damaging health, livelihoods and the environment by trading in illegal and hazardous waste for criminal gain.
‘Following a covert Environment Agency investigation we have worked with the police to arrest these suspects and secure evidence. Our inquiries will continue to probe the full extent of suspected offending’.
Resource Management Minister Dan Rogerson said: ‘Waste crime causes problems for local communities, undermines legitimate businesses and costs taxpayers. While it is not appropriate to comment on these arrests, we support the Environment Agency in taking a robust approach to tackle crime.’
The costs of clearing up the thousands of tonnes of rubbish they have left behind will be vast, as well as the potentially damaging effects caused by hazardous waste which has not been properly treated, both to the environment and to human health.
It is vital that businesses take responsibility for their waste, and ensure that any recycling and waste disposal is contracted to reputable and qualified companies.
Recycling Lives have full Environment Agency approval, and all of our waste is processed at our Approved Authorised Treatment Facility (AATF). We are the ethical waste management choice – not only do we recycle up to 100% of waste, diverting it from landfill, but we also support a social welfare charity which helps homeless people to find employment and a permanent home.
Unfortunately, there are many people still carrying out illegal and irresponsible waste management practices. Make sure that you choose a recycling service you can trust, with Recycling Lives.