Small firms warned of ‘duty of care’ regarding waste disposal


Small business owners have been warned about their duty of care when it comes to waste disposal.

The warning comes on the back of the seizure and destruction of a Transit van used to dump waste illegally.

Failure of any business to comply with its duty of care leaves open the potential for very heavy fines – £5,000 in a magistrates’ court, or an unlimited fine if a case is referred to Crown court, says Helen Hancock, an enforcement officer with the Environment Agency.

“The Environment Agency urges producers of waste, in particular small businesses such as independent building companies, to take responsibility of their commercial rubbish,” she said.

“If you operate any form of business, you have a legal responsibility to safely contain and legally dispose of any waste produced. If you don’t, you can be taken to court as you are committing a serious offence.

“When you transfer waste to another person, you must ensure that a written accurate description of the waste is agreed and signed by you and the next holder. Don’t give waste to someone who can’t prove they are a legitimate waste-carrier, as they are likely to dump your rubbish to avoid paying-waste disposal costs.

“Using illegal waste dealers may seem tempting in terms of cost, but it can help fund organised crime. All businesses have a responsibility for their commercial waste, and if your waste is found at an illegal site, you could be facing unlimited fines at court.”

She said small firms should always obtain a waste-transfer note as proof or legal disposal, and, if in any doubt, call the Environment Agency incident hotline on 0800 80 70 60, Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.

The green Transit destroyed by the Environment Agency had been linked to waste crime across a network of illegal sites. These sites were characterised by illegal entry, which involved the forcing or cutting of locks and chains, or the removal of fencing securing the sites.

The van was destroyed by a licenced scrapyard, under Environment Agency supervision, after it was seized by officers as part of an ongoing criminal investigation into the large-scale illegal dumping of commercial waste. Intensive unlawful waste-dumping involved several small trucks and the movement onto the sites of caravans to mask the waste-tipping. The sites were quickly trashed, with a hefty clean-up bill for the owner, usually in the tens of thousands of pounds.

Waste crime drains the UK economy of £1 billion each year in clean-up costs and lost tax revenues. It has a devastating effect on the environment and local communities, with pest infestations and fires, which could lead to water and land contamination, plus air pollution from smoke.

The Environment Agency has closed two illegal waste sites a day on average in the past year, seizing a number of vehicles connected with waste crime across the UK. New waste powers mean tougher action can be taken to reduce criminal waste activity – making a real difference to communities.

The Environment Agency can crush seized vehicles under the powers granted by the Control of Waste (Dealing with Seized Property) Regulations 2015.