Sunday Times, 2nd April 2017
Co-bylined with Jon Ungoed-Thomas, Chief Reporter, Sunday Times
Criminal gangs are setting up recycling centres with the intention of abandoning them with huge mounds of waste, warn Environment Agency officials.
There is anger among residents about vast piles of rubbish that are left when “recycling” depots are shut. In some cases the depots are deliberately set on fire.
Peter Rutherford, waste and enforcement manager at the Environment Agency, said: “Some operators go into the business and realise it’s not as easy as they thought, but there is a criminal element that does it deliberately and we are determined to make life hard for them.
“In some cases, the operators are quite blatant. They have no regard to the permit. They will fill [the site] and they will walk away.”
Sir James Bevan, the chief executive of the Environment Agency, warned last year that waste crime was the “new narcotics”. The agency acted against 989 illegal waste sites in England in 2015-16.
HM Revenue & Customs is consulting about whether to impose landfill taxes of £86.10 per ton on illegal waste sites, which would mean rogue operators of large sites could be hit with financial penalties of more than £1m once identified.
Barry Kilroe, a director of J25 Recycling, based in Bolton in Lancashire, which has been struck off by Companies House, was sentenced to 15 months in prison on Friday after pleading guilty to 10 charges of the unlawful operation of three waste sites in Stockport, Salford and Warrington docks.
The thousands of tons of waste Kilroe had been paid to take away for recycling was left untouched. He was accused of intentionally breaching or flagrantly disregarding the law by abandoning the sites for others to clean up. Kilroe said his venture had been hit by problems beyond his control.
One of Britain’s worst serial fly-tippers is Martin McDonagh, 23, from Plymouth, who ran a waste business in the southwest of England. He collected waste, but instead of recycling it or sending it to landfill, he fly-tipped it across Devon, including in Dartmoor National Park.
McDonagh was given a 20-month jail sentence earlier this month, but is on the run.