Rogue waste collectors who fly-tip household rubbish will be targeted under a government crackdown.
Fly-tipping increased sharply last year to 1.1 million cases in England and many of the incidents are thought to be linked to cowboy companies which dump rubbish in alleyways and quiet country lanes to avoid fees at disposal sites.
It is possible to register to carry waste as a business without any checks being carried out at present.
However, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is today publishing proposals to reform the system. Under the plans companies which move or trade waste will be subject to increased background checks. Officials are also introducing mandatory digital waste tracking, meaning collectors will be required to record how they dispose of waste
Existing registration will be replaced with an environmental permit system which will be more strictly regulated and require applicants to demonstrate they are competent to handle and dispose of waste legitimately.
Guidance for households will also be updated to make clear that they are responsible for checking that they are giving their waste to a carrier with the appropriate permit.
Defra is also proposing to make it a requirement for permit numbers to be displayed on waste collection adverts and on the side of vehicles.
The Environment Agency would carry out checks to detect those advertising had the required permits.
A study last year found that 63 per cent of individuals or companies offering to collect waste did not appear to be registered. The study, funded by Material Focus, a not-for-profit organisation that seeks to increase recycling of electrical equipment, also found that the Environment Agency had refused only 19 out of 140,000 applications for registration as a waste carrier.
Ray Purdy, an environmental crime expert and author of the Material Focus report, welcomed the proposal to require adverts for waste removal to carry permit numbers but said the government should go further by making social media platforms check that their advertisers complied.
“Having to check tens of thousands of waste removal adverts weekly is a big resource ask and I’d like to see them holding the advertising platforms to account more,” Purdy said.
Jo Churchill, an environment minister, said: “Reforming the licensing system will clamp down on abuse of the system, and new mandatory digital waste tracking will greatly improve transparency in the sector and make it easier for householders to check that their waste is being disposed of legally.”
Jacob Hayler, executive director at the Environmental Services Association, which represents waste companies, said the proposals “should help to make life difficult for criminals infiltrating our sector and making a fast buck at the expense of legitimate operators and the environment”.
Richard Alvin, managing director of agritech land enforcement company CrimeDeter which specialises in helping rural landowners and supermarkets with reducing flytipping incidents, said cleaning up fly-tipping cost landowners an average of almost £1,000 per incident and up to £100,000. He welcomed the proposals but called on the government to go further by increasing prosecutions and fines.