Waste crime may not receive a lot of news coverage, but it can be a serious problem – for law enforcement, for the environment and for haulage companies that risk getting caught up in it. An innovative new European initiative helps to tackle the problem at the source, and some of the most significant work is being done in Scotland. |
What’s the Crime?
It is, in simple terms, crime relating to waste. Usually, it consists of criminals looking to save money by avoiding proper waste management rules. Think illegal dumping and fly-tipping, but on a massive scale.
How big a scale? The answer is surprising. The Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) estimates that metal theft costs the entire United Kingdom at least £220 million every year. These costs come from unpaid duties and taxes as well as the costs of dealing with the problem.
Haulage companies are often implicated in the issue, carrying waste away from jurisdictions where it can be dealt with, or across borders to avoid regulations. Even honest hauliers can be caught up in this, as the criminals will often lie or mislead about the nature of the cargo they want moved.
The Life Smart Programme
Beginning in June 2014, the European Union’s LIFE+ body allocated funds to bring together different organisations from around Europe to deal with this kind of crime. The programme, called Life Smart, is due to run for five years, terminating in May 2019.
The decision to integrate different organisations was spurred by the complex, ever-changing nature of this particular crime. As countless examples of prohibition have proved, criminals are very adaptable when it comes to moving goods out of sight of the law.
Accordingly, the programme aims to understand illicit waste markets and develop and test new ways of tackling them. Environmental bodies such as SEPA work with law enforcement, including customs and financial authorities as well as police. Alongside a general awareness-raising campaign, treatment sites will be treated to unscheduled site visits and driver from haulage companies will be faced with road stops.
What does this mean for the transport industry?
As mentioned above, the main way this will affect hauliers is through road stops. Two days of out-of-hours stops were enacted in Scotland recently, for instance, focusing on routes to and from Northern Ireland ferry crossings.
Drivers also have individual responsibilities. A recent law in Scotland has made it illegal (since September 2016) to accept scrap metal without verifying the identity of the person selling it to you.
Detective Inspector Arlene Wilson of the British Transport Police laid out the risks to haulage companies in no uncertain terms. ‘Hauliers’, she said, ‘may be committing an offence by transporting or illegally disposing of metal or other waste without required permissions’. This, she stressed, could leave them liable to ‘prosecution and operational sanctions’.
Just as individual hauliers are required to know what they’re carrying and where they got it, so company management needs to remain diligent to ensure its drivers aren’t being asked to take jobs that could potentially put them on the wrong side of the law.
Norman Dulwich is a Correspondent for Haulage Exchange, the leading online trade network for the road transport industry. Connecting professionals across the UK and Europe through their website, Haulage Exchange provides services for matching haulage companies or self-employed drivers with jobs in road transport and haulage work. Over 5,400 member companies are networked together through the Exchange to fill empty capacity, get new clients and form long-lasting business relationships.
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