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New powers are helping to combat the illegal dumping of waste in the countryside, says the Environment Agency.
It comes after a 200-tonne tipper lorry linked to illegal waste activity across the West Midlands was seized and crushed by police and agency officials.
The vehicle was detained after months of surveillance and intelligence gathering as part of Operation Poppy, a joint operation between the police and the agency.
It followed 28 incidents of large scale illegal dumping of commercial waste in North Staffordshire, Shropshire, South Staffordshire and North Worcestershire.
The DVLA also issued a prohibition notice and immediately removed the vehicle off the road after the vehicle was found to be using trade plates illegally and deemed unsafe to drive.
Gill Heath, Staffordshire County Council’s cabinet member for communities, said it had taken three days to remove some 175 tonnes of rubbish dumped by the now-crushed vehicle.
Dumping commercial waste has the potential to harm people and the environment, she said.
It caused a great deal of trouble for the victims and it was extremely frustrating that public bodies had to spend taxpayers’ money cleaning up a crime.
The lorry driver and passenger were questioned by the police and remain a line of enquiry.
The vehicle was used to dump large quantities of shredded household commercial waste, varying between 30 and 500 tonnes, on farmland, wooded estates and public footpaths.
Environment Agency officers working on the case have since reported a reduction in illegal waste activity in the area since the lorry was seized.
Emma Howard Boyd, Chair of the Environment Agency, said: “We are determined to make life hard for waste criminals by preventing and disrupting illegal activity.?
Thanks to £30m funding from the government and new powers to tackle problematic sites, the agency was in a better position to safeguard the environment, she added,
In the financial year 16/17, the Environment Agency brought 138 prosecutions against businesses or individuals for waste crime offences, yielding more than £2m in fines.
Environment Agency regional director Mike Grimes said good progress was being made against waste crime with enforcement action resulting in higher fines and custodial sentences.
In the past two weeks, prosecutions in West Midlands had resulted in a 26-month jail term for one waste criminal and a 200 hour community service order for another.
“With our new waste powers, we can take tougher action to reduce illegal waste activity, which will make a real difference to the local communities.”
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