Going beyond recycling: how to fight waste crime

waste washed up on a beach

Going beyond recycling: how to fight waste crime

Most of us give very little thought to our waste once it’s in the bin. Unfortunately even after it leaves our homes and businesses it could be costing us money. This Global Recycling Day we go beyond separating paper from plastic and ask: where does it all go? And what can we do to prevent waste crime and reduce our environmental footprint?

Global Recycling Day

Since 2018 Global Recycling Day has been an annual reminder of the importance of recycling and proper waste management. It is also a chance to take a fresh look at our environmental footprint.

The Global Recycling Foundation (GRF) have chosen ‘Recycling Heroes’ as this year’s theme. This is part of an effort to bring attention to the great work going on across the world to improve recycling and fight waste crime. Every year the GRF organises educational talks, community events and social media campaigns to help people improve their recycling habits and raise awareness of waste issues. The most important of which is waste crime.

What is waste crime?

Waste crime is an issue that affects us all. Fly tipping, burning and illegal dumping are all common practices. These can lead to environmental damage and high costs to both businesses and the local community. Between April 2019 and March 2020, UK councils reported nearly 1 million incidents of fly tipping.

Waste management can be costly for businesses and, to save money, many firms turn to discount waste management solutions. These low cost services are often carried out by organised groups or individuals who lack the necessary permits or facilities to safely handle waste and recyclables.

Councils across the country spend huge sums on fighting waste crime. The expense to the taxpayers is currently estimated at £600m each year. Most of this is a result of business waste being mishandled or illegally dumped.

The illegal export of waste, and even recyclables, is another big issue. Since China stopped buying large quantities of waste products in 2018, disposal companies worldwide have tried to find alternatives. New factories have appeared in countries like Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand where restrictions are not as well enforced. These countries are struggling to handle the quantities of waste they’re receiving. Transporting waste to a country with no capacity to process has resulted in large quantities being illegally dumped or burned. These actions harm the local environment and release toxic chemicals into the air and water supply.

Fighting waste crime

In January 2021 the Joint Unit for Waste Crime (JUWC) celebrated its first anniversary tackling waste crime in the UK.

The JUWC task force works closely with the British Transport Police and the Northern Ireland Environmental Agency to crack down on national and international waste crime including:

  • fly-tipping
  • illegal dumping or burning of waste
  • deliberate misdescription of waste
  • operation of illegal waste management sites
  • illegal waste export

Only 1 out of 300 fly tipping incidents are currently prosecuted. Since the formation of the JUWC, these numbers are slowly improving. As waste tracking technology evolves, tracing the source of waste to its origin could become a reality in the very near future.

What can I do?

Reducing the risk of your waste ending up in the wrong place starts with reducing your output. Improving your recycling practices is a good place to start and can help reduce your waste management costs.

Here are 4 questions that could help you to improve your recycling practices.

1: Do I dispose of everything I have used properly and in the right place?

2: Do I know the local council rules and do I follow them?

3: Do I know what happens to my recyclables when they’re taken away?

4: Do I choose recyclable products and appliances?

Choosing a reputable and licensed company is important but may not be as easy as it sounds. Waste crime organisations often appear to be legitimate but may still engage in fly tipping and illegal shipping.

How can ESS help?

At ESS we can help take the stress out of waste management and keep your costs down. This begins with a free audit of your disposal costs to make sure you are not paying more than you should. We advise on ways to save money and even check to see if you’re due any refunds.

We can help you choose a waste management solution that’s right for your business and the environment. All our providers are vetted and comply with the law so you can be certain your waste isn’t going to become someone else’s problem. If you’re interested in finding out how we can help with your waste management, get in touch today.

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