Report waste crime

Dumping or burning waste where it's not allowed, or allowing others to do so, is a criminal offence. Find out more about waste crime and how you can report it.

Waste crime

Waste crime is the illegal management of waste. It is becoming an increasing problem in Northern Ireland and in particular, the dumping of fuel laundering waste, is a concern.

Fuel laundering is an illegal process whereby marker dyes are removed from red and green diesel, which is then sold to motorists or fuel retailers. This process produces waste. The waste is typically disposed of in industrial bulk containers, which are big plastic cubes with metal cages around them. The laundered waste looks like a dark reddish brown sludge with dark coloured water on top and is very hazardous.

Criminals are involved in illegal waste activities – from waste collection and the provision of skips to illegal landfilling and burning of the waste to get rid of it. Their motive is making money. They usually charge the legal going rate to collect and transport waste and then dispose of it illegally and pocket the profits.

Why waste crime matters

If it is not handled properly, waste can cause serious pollution of the environment – air, land and water – and this can be harmful to health.

Criminal waste activity also has an economic impact on legitimate businesses involved in waste disposal. These companies are unable to compete effectively in the waste industry because they are undercut by criminals.

It affects everyone because there are huge costs involved in ‘cleaning up’ illegal waste, which means that less money is available for things like hospitals and schools.

Penalties for waste crime

The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) takes waste crime very seriously. Criminals involved in waste management can receive heavy fines of up to £50,000 and be sentenced to six months imprisonment per charge.

At Crown Court level, the fines are unlimited and criminals can be sentenced to up to five years imprisonment per charge and be required to pay back the profits they have made.

What can you do?

If you need to dispose of waste, either from your home or business, remember to ask the provider of the service lots of questions about where your waste will be taken and what records you will receive to show it was managed legally.

Reporting illegal waste management 

You can report illegal waste management to Crimestoppers or to DAERA's Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) Environmental Crime Unit.

You should:

  • visually try to work out what sort of waste it is and how much of it there is
  • make a note of the dates and times you saw any waste being tipped and its exact location
  • make a note of how many people were involved, if you saw them tipping waste or working on the site
  • make a note of the details of any vehicles you saw – make, model, colour, registration number and any livery

Do not:

  • touch waste – it may contain syringes, toxic substances or asbestos
  • disturb the site – there may be evidence there that will assist an investigation
  • put yourself at risk by tackling anyone you think is involved or by taking photographs or making yourself obvious

Contact Crimestoppers anonymously

You can call Crimestoppers anonymously or fill in the online form on the Crimestoppers website.

Contact NIEA

You can contact NIEA Environmental Crime Unit anonymously or leave your details.

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