Organised gangs targeting farms in baled waste scam

The Environment Agency (EA) has warned farmers and landowners to be vigilant amid an increasing threat from organised, illegal waste dumping.

The crimes are large-scale and the landowners targeted to date have each faced clean-up costs exceeding £200,000, the EA said.

See also: Farmers vent frustration over fly-tipping scourge

As well as the scale of the crimes, the EA said that, unlike random fly-tipping incidents, these new crimes were systematic and well-planned.

Alan Cansdale, an environment manager for the EA, explained that the crimes start with the organised waste gang posing as a legitimate, prospective tenant.

A gang member approaches a landowner and uses false identification to rent land or barn space, Mr Cansdale said.

The gang then brings in the waste, which is compressed and wrapped to look like silage bales.

Once the waste has been left, the tenant suddenly quits, leaving the landowner with the bales, said Mr Cansdale.

The unsuspecting landowners often don’t realise they have been targeted until the criminals are long gone, he added.

But once the bales are opened, the contents are usually plastic, commercial or household rubbish that cannot be recycled.

Waste bales in a shed

Clean-up costs

Most of the sites have been cleared at great expense to the landowners. The landowner may also face prosecution for allowing waste to be stored on land without a permit, he said.

To date, the problem has mainly occurred in the south-east of England and Mr Cansdale warned landowners in the region to be extra vigilant.

“There have been incidents of large-scale dumping of baled waste on privately owned sites across Kent, Surrey, Sussex and Hampshire since 2017,” he said.

In a bid to stop waste criminals, the EA has joined forces with the CLA and NFU in the region.

The organisations have released advice to anyone who may be approached by a gang trying to falsely lease storage space.

Baled waste advice

  • Carry out rigorous checks on prospective new tenants. It is a legal requirement to establish how and what a prospective tenant will use the storage space for.
  • Check any empty land and property regularly and make sure it is secure.
  • Landlords should check before signing a contract that it complies with regulations.
  • Be vigilant and report any unusual behaviour.
  • If you are suspicious of prospective tenants, contact the EA.
  • If you are approached to store baled waste, even on a short-term basis, refuse the material and call the agency on 0800 80 70 60 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.