Who is dealing with your waste?

date14 February 2012

Do you care what happens to your rubbish after it's been taken away? If you paid someone to take away your waste and they fly tipped it somewhere, the chances are it would be traced back to you. If that happened would you be able to prove how it got there?

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Many householders don't realise that they are responsible and Scotland's environment watchdog is encouraging anyone arranging for the disposal of waste, including old vehicles, to ensure that the individual or company they choose is appropriately registered, and will deal with it properly.

Ben Tustin, Senior Environment Protection Officer for the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, said:

"Often people that deal in scrap metal or end-of-life vehicles will seek out old cars or scrap metal to trade quickly for cash. Many are legitimate carriers and are registered with SEPA but they may not always use paperwork such as transfer notes or consignment notes. However, there are also some that are not registered. That's illegal, and an operator that breaks one law may well be breaking others by stockpiling or treating waste on unlicensed sites."

Sites that flout environmental regulations can benefit commercially from illegal activities like this. Legitimate operators, who take the necessary steps to keep, treat and dispose of waste legally, suffer the financial burden of doing so. Non-compliant sites are able to undercut their competitors due to their lower operating costs, resulting in a loss of potential earnings to legitimate operators.

SEPA officers are planning to visit various local garages in the coming months to discuss how they are handling different wastes, including end-of-life vehicles, and how they can ensure their business follows legislation and doesn't harm the environment. But there are some unscrupulous individuals that are more concerned about making money, at any cost, and information from the public can be useful in tracking them down.

Ben continued:

We often find that people who deliberately avoid getting licences don't care if their activities damage the environment or human health. Cars, for example, contain a wide range of substances with the potential to do harm if they are not de-polluted properly or are stored inappropriately. Coolant, oil, battery acid and other fluids can contaminate the ground, which risks polluting groundwater and local watercourses. This is why waste management licences have strict conditions to help protect the environment. If someone approaches you and offers to take away waste please check that they are registered with SEPA, and if they're not let us know.

"There is also a risk when using an illegitimate operator to take away an old vehicle that you may find it is still registered in your name with DVLA, especially if no formal certificate of destruction has been issued."

Around 75% of fly-tipped waste is from households and homeowners also need to be aware of their duty of care. Anyone hiring a contractor to deal with their waste is urged to check that they are registered with SEPA and that they will take the waste to an appropriately licensed site. You can check if a company or individual is a registered waste carrier on our website. It is strongly recommended that you ensure you have written details of the waste collected and where it will be taken. Under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 fly tipping can result in a Fixed Penalty notice in the first instance of £50, leading to an unlimited fine and/or two years imprisonment if convicted in court on indictment, so it is important you can prove who removed it from your property.

Jim Frame, SEPA's West Highland and Argyll Unit Manager, added:

SEPA wants to engage with operators and help them to comply with the law. However, if we find illegal waste activities taking place, those operators will be required to stop what they're doing or obtain the necessary permissions. Failure to comply may result in SEPA initiating further enforcement action which might include a report being submitted to the Procurator Fiscal recommending prosecution.

"If you are looking for advice on how to dispose of your waste you are welcome to contact SEPA to discuss the options and we'll provide whatever help we can. SEPA is operating a joint initiative with Crimestoppers to identify and stop illegal waste activities, but we need your help to make it effective. If you're concerned that an operator is operating illegally you can contact us directly or via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111."


Notes to editors

  • Anyone convicted of an offence under Section 33 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 shall be liable on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or a fine not exceeding £40,000 or both; and on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or a fine or both.