The NFU has welcomed the launch of a new taskforce dedicated to tackling serious and organised waste crime, such as dumping hazardous materials on private land and falsely labelling waste so it can be exported abroad to unsuspecting countries.
The Joint Unit for Waste Crime (JUWC) will bring together law enforcement agencies, environmental regulators, HMRC and the National Crime Agency.
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.
Meanwhile, the last fly-tipping statistics for the year 2018/19 revealed that local authorities in England dealt with just over one million incidents, an increase of 8% from the 998,000 incidents reported in 2017/18.
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.
NFU Vice President Stuart Roberts said: “The latest fly-tipping figures revealed a major issue that continues to spiral out of control affecting two thirds of all farmers with potentially a large number of unrecorded incidents taking place on private land – illegally dumped rubbish that’s costly and time consuming to remove, dangerous to human health, harmful to wildlife and livestock and, in some cases, fly-tipped waste pollutes watercourses and contaminates land.
“We support the introduction of this new unit but it does need farmers and landowners being involved at every stage as they are the people who too often feel ignored and are always the people at the sharp end of this growing problem.
“By working together, we can tackle this continual blight on our countryside and allow farmers to concentrate on what they do best, producing safe, traceable and affordable food for us to enjoy.”