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The Environment Agency has issued two warnings aimed at farmers after several incidents where bales of waste were dumped as part of a scam. Farmers were approached and offered a delivery of tarmac road planings that could be used to repair their tracks and yards. However, after accepting the offer, bales of landfill waste were dumped on their land instead, leaving them with an environmental liability as well as the costs for transporting the waste to authorised disposal sites.
The latest incident in Boston has left a farmer facing the clean-up bill for 250 tonnes of waste after a neighbour alerted them to the Environment Agency warnings which ensured that no further waste was dumped at this site.
Unfortunately, as most insurance policies for farms do not cover poor business ventures this scam means that it is the farmers and landowners themselves who will have to fund the removal of the bales. The first farmer had 25 bales deposited on his land which would cost around £3,000 to remove, but the second had nearer 2,500 bales dumped on his land and the costs of disposing of these will be around £300,000.
Advice and Guidance
The Environment Agency is urging all landowners to be wary in order to avoid becoming the next victim of this scam. They have issued the following guidance:
- Use reputable agents and brokers
- Carry out suitable checks and due diligence, i.e. take individual's details, vehicle registration, ask where the waste is coming from (address, permit number, waste carriers registration), etc
- Inform any waste carrier you’ll be contacting the Environment Agency to confirm their registration
- Do not agree to accept any waste until you have carried out checks and had a cooling off period to fully consider the offer
Peter Stark, Senior Enforcement Officer for the Environment Agency, has cautioned that "criminals operating in and around the waste industry can be very convincing and persuasive, sometimes offering thousands of pounds in cash up front. Don’t be tempted by quick money, you could end up with an environmental risk, flies, polluting liquids running out of bales of waste and even fire risks alongside the massive disposal bill….Although these specific incidents occurred in Lincolnshire, we would not be surprised if this scam was attempted in neighbouring counties due to convenient transport links".
The Law on Accepting Commercial Waste
The Highways Agency and county council highway departments and their contractors should always use legitimate waste carriers and sites for the reuse or disposal of their waste. It is possible that they may approach farmers and landowners to reuse tarmac road planings or crushed rubble and concrete to repair road and yard areas but farmers would need to register the U1 waste exemption form with the Environment Agency and abide by the rules associated with this process.
Waste stored inappropriately can create further issues for neighbouring properties, such as smells and pests. It can also have a detrimental effect on the environment and impact on local water courses with an increased high risk of waste fires due improper storage.
Although instances such as this are extreme and in the minority, it is worth remembering that the regulation of waste is extremely stringent and great care needs to be taken to avoid liability, which can often arise unwittingly. Many environmental offences can be committed without criminal intention or bad faith due to the strict interpretation of the law. The high costs of remediating environmental problems and the potential for much higher sentences under new sentencing guidelines continue to make compliance with the law particularly important.
These environmental offences are not limited to farm land and agriculture. Any substance which its owner intends to discard becomes waste as a matter of law, and will fall with regulatory law. Even a standard office will generate regulated waste, and could face sanction or prosecution for failure to comply with the law.
If you have any queries or concerns with regard to safe waste disposal, definitions of waste or accepting commercial waste, please contact a member of our Business Risk and Regulations Team for more information and guidance.
Anyone suspecting illegal waste activities, or who has been approached or may be storing such waste, is also urged to contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.