Panorama investigation highlights the difficulty in regulating & prosecuting offenders, but quicker progress needed

Sam Corp, Mar 3, 2021

Sam Corp, Head of Regulation at ESA, comments on the most recent BBC Panorama piece on the impact that fly-tipping is having on the UK environmental and social health.

With more than a million fly-tipping incidents a year in the UK, this is one of the most common and pervasive environmental crimes, which affects not just the environment, but also has social, economic and health implications too.

As the BBC Panorama investigation showed, regulating against this behaviour and prosecuting offenders is challenging. Coupled with relatively low penalties even when an offender is convicted, these factors unfortunately make fly-tipping a low-risk and high-reward crime. 

The investigation highlights the need once more for us all to be aware of our legal duty of care when having our waste collected by a third party – whether this is hiring a bin, a skip or a “man in a van” – to stop waste falling into the wrong hands. However, as the ESA first flagged back in our 2015 research ‘Britain’s Dirty Secret’ and 2017 in ‘Rethinking Waste Crime’, there are failings in the waste carriers’ registration system which unfortunately make it all too easy for criminal operators to appear legitimate. 

ESA recognises that Defra has been working to reform the system, to include more rigorous front end checks, competency requirement and mandatory electronic waste tracking, but we are keen to see quicker progress. Waste crime, including fly-tipping, unfortunately does not appear to be reducing and has serious consequences for both the environment and for legitimate waste businesses.

The ESA is due to publish further independent research later this year exploring the incidence of waste crime and its economic impact, which we hope will provide a better understanding of the scale of the problem today, as well as to encourage greater momentum in proposed government policy changes alongside tougher enforcement.”

If you have any comments or wish to provide us with more information on waste crime please do get in touch with Sam Corp ( or to report waste crime please see our website