Contractors are being told to clean up their act after thousands of tonnes of contaminated plastic film and wrap produced in construction were blocked from export at UK ports.
Fresh crackdown after surge in illegal export of plastic waste contaminated with mud, sand and brick
The Environment Agency has pointed the finger at construction and demolition as the worst offenders for generating waste contaminated with materials such as mud, sand, bricks and wood.
Waste exporters are frequently classifying this as ‘green list’ waste of low risk to the environment, but it is often contaminated poor grade plastic waste which is illegal to export.
Firms convicted of illegally exporting this contaminated waste face an unlimited fine and a two-year jail sentence.
But Agency enforcers are warning construction firms are also in the firing line and could face enforcement action if they are found to show disregard for the environment.
During the last year, the EA said it had intercepted huge numbers of shipments to prevent their illegal export. Of 1,889 waste containers inspected at English ports, agency enforcers stopped a quarter from being illegally exported.
This, combined with regulatory intervention upstream at sites, prevented the illegal export of nearly 23,000 tonnes of waste.
It said exporters were undermining legitimate businesses in the UK seeking to recover such waste properly.
Malcolm Lythgo, Head of Waste Regulation at the Environment Agency, said: “We are seeing a marked increase in the number of highly contaminated plastic film and wrap shipments from the construction and demolition industry being stopped by our officers.
“I would strongly urge businesses to observe their legal responsibility to ensure waste is processed appropriately, so we can protect human health and the environment now and for future generations.
“It’s not enough just to give your waste to someone else – even a registered carrier. You need to know where your waste will ultimately end up to know it’s been handled properly.
“We want to work constructively with those in the construction and waste sectors so they can operate compliantly, but we will not hesitate to clamp down on those who show disregard for the environment and the law.”