Defra proposes mandatory digital waste tracking in new dumping crackdown
The UK Government has announced new plans to help tackle fly-tipping and illegal waste exports through stricter background checks and compulsory digital waste tracking.
Under the waste tracking proposals, the government will use legislation allowed for in last year’s Environmental Act to require that firms managing waste record information from the point waste is produced to the stage it is disposed of, recycled, and reused.
In the announcement issued today by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, digital tracking will enable regulators ‘to better detect illegal activity and tackle waste crime, including fly-tipping, illegal waste sites, and illegal waste exports.
For its part, Defra added that the government and devolved administrations are working closely together to develop a UK-wide digital waste tracking service for those handling waste which it has been working on for some time.
Two years ago, sustainability consultants Anthesis and waste analytics company Topolytics were both selected for a £1m grant to help build a prototype of the UK’s first comprehensive digital waste tracking system.
The grand was part of the government’s £20million GovTech Catalyst fund which supports the development of innovative solutions.
It was reported at the time that blockchain and the use of electronic chips and sensors have been put forward as practical solutions for tracking waste.
Anthesis revealed that it also planned to use QR codes on mobile devices to record the ID of consignments, so transactions will be faster and error-free, while Topolytics outlined proposals to use data from a range of devices including apps and sensors on waste containers or vehicles.
According to Defra, crimes including fly-tipping, illegal dumping and illegal waste exports harmed the environment, put human health at risk and in 2018-19, cost the economy around £924m.
As part of the government’s new proposals the industry will also see increased background checks for firms who move or trade waste, as well as making it easier for regulators across the UK act against rogue operators.
The proposals – announced by the Environment Minister Jo Churchill and set out in two new consultations – will seek the views from the waste industry and other stakeholders.
“Reforming the licensing system will clamp down on abuse of the system and new mandatory digital waste tracking will greatly improve transparency in the sector and make it easier for householders to check that their waste is being disposed of legally,” Churchill said.
Waste industry bodies have broadly welcomed the proposals.
Sarah Poulter CEO of Chartered Institute of Waste Management said: “The launch of these consultations provides a valuable opportunity for the UK waste and resource management sector to influence its future direction and help eradicate practices which have tarnished its reputation and deterred much needed investment.”
Jacob Hayler, executive director at the Environmental Services Association declared the crackdown as something that could be a “pivotal moment” in the fight against waste crime.
In its announcement the government added that the new plans build on the extra £60 million given to the Environment Agency to tackle waste crime since 2014. However, long term government spending figures for the ESA’s protection work show that investment has fallen, from around £170m in 2009 to 2010 to £76m in 2019 to 2020 – before rising to £94m last year.
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