Waste crime is the illegal management of waste. It is a significant problem in Northern Ireland with tens of thousands of tons of waste being illegally disposed of on many occasions. Smaller scale disposal (also known as 'fly-tipping') also blights the landscape and is expensive to clean up.
Also, criminals are often involved in illegal waste activities – from waste collection and the provision of skips to illegal landfilling and the burning of 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 illegal 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.
Actions you can take
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. Everyone has a responsibility to manage their waste properly. This is called the waste duty of care:
You should always use a registered waste carrier. A list of registered waste carriers can be found on the DAERA website:
Reporting illegal waste management
You can report illegal waste management to DAERA's Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) Environmental Crime Section.
- visually try to work out what sort of waste it is and how much of it there is
- if you can do so without putting yourself at risk, take photographs or a video on your phone
- 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
- keep any notes or other records you make
- 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 engaging anyone you think is involved or by making yourself obvious
You can report waste crime by contacting NIEA Environmental Crime Section. You can do this anonymously if you wish.