Organised Crime Wave Hits Unsuspecting Warehouse, Property and Land Owners
A large organised waste scam is currently hitting the Midlands and warnings are in place that it could soon move to other areas of the country. The crime sees property and land owners being scammed to temporarily store safe materials for a fee. The “safe” material is actually waste produce bound for landfill. The “temporary” period is permanent.
The scam has already cost at least one unsuspecting landowner in excess of £300,000 and others are facing potentially huge bills to clean up their property.
What can brokers do to help protect their clients?
The recycling of waste is a major industry and what is termed ‘refuse derived fuel’ (RDF) is a form of fuel provided from treated waste. The process involves industrial collecting of waste which is treated and prepared into bales and used for fuel. The problem starts when this waste does not meet the necessary specification for incineration and needs to be disposed of at huge cost in landfill sites.
The cost of disposing at landfill sites continues to rise and is currently around £90 per ton.
The wolf in sheep’s clothing…….
Criminal gangs approach legitimate waste companies with fraudulent industry paperwork offering to transfer the waste to the landfill site for a cheaper price.
The gangs then approach landowners and ask them to allow temporary storage of the material which looks like silage bales, not an uncommon site on farms in particular. The landowners are told it is used for instance, in the road building industry for a job just a few miles away. The gang never returns having paid a modest storage charge, leaving the landowner with the legal requirement to ultimately pay for the removal of the waste.
The farmer was led to believe bales contained road plainings by a criminal imposing to be from the local Highways department. The 2,500 bales of landfill waste cost the farmer £300,000 in disposal costs while the criminals moved onto their next victim.
A warehouse or barn could be filled with waste bales in just three days.
‘The waste could just simply appear on the farm at an isolated area of grain barns or hard standing and the bolder it is done by the criminals the less any passer-by would notice. Any approach to store materials should be treated with extreme caution.’
Mark Rumble, Enforcement Officer for The Environment Agency
Landowners may not be insured for this illegal dumping. Environmental Impairment Liability Insurance Policies vary dramatically between providers and care should be taken when reading the Fly Tipping extension.
Standard public liability policies will often pay the cost of cleaning up and removing any materials on a policyholder's land as a result of dumping or tipping, however, the policy usually stipulates the event must be sudden and outside the control of the policyholder. If the policyholder knowingly allows the storage of the material on their property, most policies would not be triggered and the policyholder would be expected to pay the cost of the disposal themselves.
Some environmental policies offer wider protection particularly when a pollutant condition such as a seepage has arisen.
Being forewarned is being forearmed. Help to spread the word of this growing concern to your clients and ask them to spread the word to their neighbours. Extra care and investigation should be taken before offering a site for storage to any individual or company, no matter how legitimate they appear. Boundary fencing should be checked to ensure it is secure and to prevent unlawful access.
The Environment Agency have dedicated intelligence-led crime teams working across the UK but they need your help. Any known or suspected incidents should be reported to the Environment Agency on 0800 807060 or Crime Stoppers UK on 0800 555111
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