A shipment of illegal waste disguised as plastic and shipped to Poland, is now being sent back to the UK. Greenpeace’s new investigative journalist platform Unearthed, reported that the UK Environmental Agency are working with Polish Authorities to return the 1,000 tons of waste A criminal investigation now proceeds with three UK companies.

The freight was reported as recyclable plastic when it was dumped, but contained waste; boxes, tins, engine oil, and detergent packaging.

The export of illegal waste breaches EU waste shipment regulations, with penalties including fines and imprisonment.

Unearthed estimated that illegal exports of waste in the UK will rise; China introduced a ban in 2018 on plastic waste imports. Two-thirds of UK waste was shipped to China and Hong Kong. With this, exports to Poland have increased by 31% in the first four months of 2018 according to analysis of trade data conducted by Unearthed.

The plastic crisis is set to intensify as more countries look to restrict foreign waste. Millions of tons of plastic waste from British businesses and homes may end up in landfill sites, due to changes in exports.

The National Audit Office describes the Government as failing to oversee what happens to waste when it leaves UK shores. ‘The system appears to have evolved into a comfortable way for government to meet targets without facing up to the underlying recycling issues.’

A Defra spokesman stated:

Since the packaging producer responsibility regime was introduced, recycling rates have increased. However, there is much more to do. We don’t recycle enough waste, we export too much of it.

Environmental Agency chief Sir James Bevan warned in 2016 that ‘waste crime will become the new narcotics,’ costing Britain on average £1bn a year. Illegal waste offences range from illegal dumping of household and industrial waste, to fraudulent activity involving recycling fees and landfill tax.

If you have queries about compliance or are being investigated in connection with waste transfer or disposal, or any other EA matter, contact Ison Harrison.

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