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  1. ITV Report

Exclusive: 30,000 tonnes of waste abandoned with £2m clean up cost

  • 30,000 tonnes of waste have been abandoned at a deserted mill in the Midlands.

The non-recyclable waste was left by a waste broker, who promised to dispose of it through the proper channels - but instead abandoned it and disappeared.

The owner of the site is now left with the £2m cost of clearing it up, and has been prosecuted.

He may have to sell his home to pay the bill, and it will take a year to get through it all.

The head of the Environment Agency is referring to the trade in illegal waste as "the new narcotics."

There's always been a link between waste and crime - all you really need is a lorry and a yard - so there are a lot of people in that space with criminal intent

– John Galvin, former head of waste crime at Defra
Credit: ITV News Central

The Environment Agency's annual figures show that it stopped activity at 812 illegal sites across the country during 2017.

But it also discovered 852 new ones - that's more than two every single day.

Over the last financial year, 93 prosecutions were brought against businesses or individuals for waste crime offences.

This resulted in more than £380,000 in fines and 16 custodial sentences...

...The government has provided more funding to tackle this serious problem and we shall continue to work with the legitimate waste industry and with other enforcement bodies, particular HMRC to tackle the problem.

– Environment Agency spokesperson
Credit: ITV News Central

ITV News Central has also discovered just how easy it is to get a licence to remove waste.

You simply fill in some personal details on a government website, pay £154, and your licence to enter the waste business is produced.

Working with industry and Defra we have put forward proposals to change the system of registration to further tighten controls.

– Environment Agency spokesperson

A panel including industry experts and senior police officers will present the Serious and Organised Waste Crime Review to Environment Secretary Michael Gove in the next few days.

Its findings are expected to form part of the government's Resource and Waste Strategy.

One of its five objectives is to make the UK a zero avoidable waste economy by 2050.