The operation saw a total of 59 vehicles stopped and checked – and a range of enforcement actions taken for illegal activities.
Local officers and specialist enforcement officers from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) joined colleagues from Police Scotland, Aberdeenshire Council Trading Standards, Aberdeen City Council Trading Standards, Moray Council Trading Standards and Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) in Operation Protector, designed to target criminals involved in illegal waste activity.
Communities in the Moray, Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire Council areas are adversely affected by those involved in waste crime.
SEPA is currently tracking around 200 unlicensed waste sites in Scotland. Of these, 22 are in the Grampian and Speyside areas with SEPA considering nine of these as posing a significant environmental risk.
The week of road stops was designed to catch those illegally transporting waste, gather intelligence about the nature of waste crime in the area, and highlight duty of care to responsible waste companies and householders.
Caught in the act
Vehicles which may be carrying waste were stopped including commercial vehicles, vans, vans with trailers and HGVs A total of 59 vehicles stopped and checked. Of these, 17 operators were of concern to SEPA, with four of these triggering further investigations. Drivers were given advice and guidance on actions they need to take to be legal in carrying waste SEPA gathered important information which can start active investigations and potential enforcement action
During four days of activity (April 19-22), 13 warnings and guidance were issued by SEPA. SEPA also gathered intelligence to investigate further potential waste crimes, in relation to waste keeping and duty of care offences, with the potential for enforcement action to be taken.
Police Scotland’s roads policing teams also issued six warnings – these were around the transportation of fuel, and construction and use offences. Additionally, two drivers will be reported regarding driving with no licence and/or insurance, two vehicles were seized and six fixed penalty notices were issued by roads policing officers and the DVSA for overloaded vehicles, an insecure load and a defective HGV tyre.
Kath McDowall, Unit Manager at SEPA’s Serious Environmental Crime Team, said: “As Scotland’s environmental watchdog, we take organised waste crime very seriously. Waste crime is an issue across all of Scotland and there are illegal waste sites of quite significant scale in the North East.
“Waste crime is best tackled on a preventative level. By taking part in Operation Protector, SEPA aims to highlight the extensive work we do with partner agencies and make everyone is aware of duties they have in making sure waste gets to the right place and doesn't end up flytipped.
“During the four days of action, we have been able to issue advice and guidance to people who carry waste, raise awareness of the importance of holding a waste carrier registration and duty of care, and will investigate further some potential waste offences uncovered during the Operation.
"We would encourage anyone that witnesses any illegal waste activity or fly-tipping incidents to report it immediately through the Dumb Dumpers website at www.dumbdumpers.org.uk or if the incident is ongoing or believed to be of a hazardous nature report the incident using our 24-hour Pollution Hotline or online at www.sepa.org.uk/report.”
Inspector Claire Smith, of Police Scotland, said: “Organised criminals are profiting from the illegal disposal of waste seeing it as an easy way of making money. Their illegal activities not only have a significant environmental impact, but the profits made are then being used to finance other illegal activities.
“Under ‘Operation Protector’, Police Scotland will continue to work with partners to reduce the harm caused by Serious and Organised Crime and to disrupt their activities wherever possible.”
Marian Kitson, DVSA Director of Enforcement, said: “We want to be clear to businesses that profit should never come at a cost to road safety and we will not hesitate in taking action if people flout the rules.
“During this vital week of action alongside our partners, DVSA examiners reminded vehicle operators and drivers of their responsibility to safely maintain and load their vehicles to help keep the Aberdeenshire community safe.”
Vanessa Wilson, Senior Trading Standards Officer at Aberdeenshire Council, said: “There are links between doorstep crime and waste crime. Rogue traders who doorstep call offering services such as gardening, tarmac and other home improvements often overcharge residents and fail to complete the work to a satisfactory standard.
“They can also be associated with failing to dispose of their waste in an appropriate compliant manner.
“Working closely with partner agencies is therefore vital in tackling doorstep crime as repercussions can have a detrimental effect on residents and the area in which they reside.”
Members of the public can report suspicious sites and behaviours to SEPA 24/7 through the pollution hotline online, sepa.org.uk/report, or call 0800 80 70 60.