Scotland's first conference on environmental waste crime

  26 November 2014
Scotland’s first environmental waste crime conference was held in Edinburgh today, bringing together key agencies and organisations to look at the scale and extent of waste crime in Scotland, and how to tackle it.

The event was organised by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) on behalf of the Environmental Crime Taskforce (ECTF) which was set up by Scottish Government and consists of SEPA, Scottish Government, Police Scotland, Solace, HMRC and the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS).

Calum MacDonald, Chair of the ECTF and Executive Director at SEPA, said:

Crime in the waste industry is a growing problem in Scotland, as it is in other parts of the world. Waste streams that are of low quality and value, or are difficult to treat, persistently attract criminal elements that profit at the expense of the environment and legitimate operators.

“Good work is already being done in Scotland to identify those responsible and break the supply chains, but we must adapt as fast as the criminals do. Waste is a global resource, and it needs a response that works across borders. By coming together with experts from across the UK and Europe, including those legitimate operators who are seeing their businesses damaged by this criminal element, we have a valuable opportunity to share experiences and examine ways to combat this serious threat.”

Detective Chief Superintendent John Cuddihy, Head of Organised Crime and Counter Terrorism at Police Scotland, said:

Organised Crime Groups know no boundaries; they are driven by supply and demand and environmental crime is one of the areas they are diversifying into. To them, it’s all about profit. They obtain multi million pound contracts and by avoiding paying tax, or dealing with the health and safety costs associated with the responsible disposal of waste, their profit margins are huge. Working with SEPA, Local Authorities, Scottish Government and other partners on the Environmental Crime Taskforce we are cracking down of those who wish to threaten and harm our communities.”

Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead said:

Scotland’s magnificent environment is one of our greatest assets. Any criminal activity that threatens this is unacceptable and won’t be tolerated. The Environmental Crime Taskforce (ECTF) partners are working together to address this threat and I look forward to seeing the fruits of this first ever ECTF conference as we collaboratively protect Scotland from waste crime, sending a clear message to challenge those breaking the law.”

Announcements made

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) announced two key pieces of work that demonstrate the importance of working together in order to tackle environmental crime.

The first is a new project funded through the European Commission LIFE Programme, which will tackle and improve understanding of how illegal waste markets behave and how to tackle this criminal behaviour.

The Smarter Regulation of Waste in Europe - Life SMART waste project, which will also involve Natural Resources Wales, The Association of Cities and Regions for Recycling and sustainable Resource management (ACR+) and the Brussels Institute for the Management of the Environment, will enable environmental bodies to set intelligence objectives around shared areas of concern, then work together identify and tackle illegality.

The project will continue until May 2019 and will include the following key actions:

  • Establish a collaborative intelligence hub with common rules, objectives, security protocols, staff, governance and data management, which could potentially      be used by enforcement agencies throughout Europe.
  • Develop a waste crime intelligence gathering strategy and undertaking investigations to fill any existing intelligence gaps.
  • Create and pilot innovative tools and approaches e.g. a new waste market diagnostic tool which can be used by agencies to understand competitive behaviour in waste businesses and market trends that lead to illegal waste issues.
  • Deliver collaborative and innovative national and trans-national interventions to help tackle waste crime.
  • Make recommendations for policy and legislative interventions at a national and European level.

SEPA Chairman, David Sigsworth also highlighted the importance of inter-agency working during his speech, as he announced that SEPA intelligence staff will be embedded in the Scottish Crime Campus at Gartcosh.

Mr Sigsworth, said:

This is a further demonstration of SEPA’s commitment to addressing and tackling the problem of environmental crime. Working together with Police Scotland, HMRC and the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, we are supporting the Scottish Government’s strategy to tackle serious organised crime. It is only by working together that we can make Scotland a hostile environment for criminals to operate in.”