East of England landowners targeted by conmen seeking paid ‘storage’ sites for waste plastic and wood
Landowners are being targeted by criminal gangs operating in the eastern region who leave tonnes of waste plastic and wood on their land as part of a scam, a lobby group has warned.
The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) is urging farmers and landowners in the eastern region to be on their guard against apparently legitimate operations who offer cash to store waste on out-of-the-way sites then abandon it.
It warned it was becoming an increasing problem and said one of its own members in the region had recently become a victim of large-scale ‘waste crime’. The landowner now faced the large cost of having the waste lawfully removed – as well as having to tackle the associated fire and pollution risks.
The rise of the scam, which has been flagged by the Environment Agency, is being exacerbated by oversupply in the waste industry and difficulties in finding legitimate outlets for waste.
CLA East regional director Nicola Currie said: “Organised groups are making concerted efforts to target landowners and farmers with land in extremely isolated areas, well shielded from public highways, to store huge quantities of waste – often plastics and wood – on a temporary basis.
“These are usually slick operations, with the ringleaders seemingly having a very legitimate front. They appear to have all relevant permits and offer cash to store the waste.
“They then bring in equipment such as temporary, portable office buildings to make it look like a genuine operation, and often employ legitimate operators with no knowledge of the scam to transport the waste.
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“However, once the site is full they disappear leaving the hire kit unpaid for and the landowners with a rather large pile of waste – for which they believed there was licence – to dispose of at their own expense.
“We have been informed of an instance where one landowner has been left with between 7,000 and 10,000 tonnes to clear.
“It is happening because waste wood prices are very low at the moment, and they will fall further if we have a mild winter. A depressed market will cause further problems.”
The Environment Agency says landowners will unwittingly be committing a criminal offence by allowing waste to be stored on their land without the relevant permissions – leaving them liable to prosecution.
“This is a relatively new problem and one that landowners must be on their guard against. Although criminals stand to make considerable amounts of money, it will cost landowners a great deal more to clear the land and they will be liable to criminal prosecution as well,” said a spokesperson for the agency.
Anyone who is concerned about an approach which has been made to them or observes suspicious activity should contact the Environment Agency incident hotline on 0800 80 70 60 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.’