Scotland: Crime and Illegal Landfills

Published: 03 July 2013


Organized crime groups are behind the growth of illegal landfills across Scotland and a multi-million-pound landfill tax-evasion scam, according to the Scotland Environmental Protection Agency (Sepa).

Rising landfill taxes have resulted in an increase in illegal waste dumping. Next year the tax will hit 80 euro per ton. The higher tax rate means that just one unlicensed landfill can take enough trash to avoid one million euro in taxes each month.

"Waste crime damages the environment. It undercuts – and takes business away – from legitimate companies,” Sepa chairman David Sigsworth told The Herald newspaper. “It leads to illegal landfilling and exports, and can also be linked to tax avoidance, intimidation, money laundering and drugs.”

The new taxes have increased waste-disposal costs for many businesses and have created a major opportunity for environmental crime.

"In recent years, as the costs of landfill disposal have increased, there has been an increase in large-scale, organized, illegal waste activities,” Scottish Environmental Services Association (Sesa) executive director Calum MacDonald told The Herald.

One method to combat this problem is to try to map illegal landfills. Sesa has increased their own enforcement by adding additional 11 investigators since 2005. The agencies are working with Scottish police and prosecutors.

A major problem with illegal dumping is the impact on the environment as the landfills lack necessary environmental controls. Large quantities of greenhouse gases are generated by trash, and the groundwater becomes polluted by liquids from the decomposing waste.

In the past four years, 40 illegal waste companies have been convicted. One was fined 200,000 euro.