A new taskforce dedicated to tackling serious and organised waste crime, has been launched.

The Joint Unit for Waste Crime (JUWC) will for the first time bring together law enforcement agencies including Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA), environmental regulators, HMRC and the National Crime Agency in the war against waste crime.

Serious and organised waste crime is estimated to cost the UK economy at least £600 million a year and a 2018 Home Office review found that perpetrators are often involved in other serious criminal activity, including large scale fraud and in some cases modern slavery.

To tackle the growing trend in criminal waste networks, the new unit will conduct site inspections, make arrests and prosecutions and, upon conviction, push for heavy fines and custodial sentences.

By working together in this way, Joint Unit partners can more easily share their intelligence and resources to take swifter action when investigating criminal waste operations and other connected illegal activities, such as money laundering and human trafficking.

Toby Willison, Chair of the JUWC Board, said:

“The war against waste crime just took a giant step forward. The launch of this new unit means we now have a full complement of partners across law enforcement as well as our counterparts in Scotland and Wales to bring down waste criminals for good.

We will target serious and organised criminals across the country as they try to illegally exploit the waste industry and the environment. These criminal gangs need to know that we have them in our sights.

The Joint Unit for Waste Crime is one of a number of initiatives in the government’s landmark Resources and Waste Strategy, which is focused on tackling waste crime and driving up levels of performance in the industry.”

Jennifer Shearer, Head of Enforcement at SEPA, said:

“SEPA’s Regulatory Strategy makes it clear that ‘compliance is non-negotiable’, and being a partner on the Joint Unit for Waste Crime is a clear step forward in ensuring that responsible agencies work together to disrupt and prevent waste criminals from operating.

Organised waste crime operates across geographical boundaries and has a serious and detrimental impact on our environment, communities and compliant businesses. Working together in this way allows us to tackle this criminality swiftly and effectively.”