YORKSHIRE is one of the worst regions in the country when it comes to the illegal dumping of waste, according to new figures.
Environment Agency officials are warning organised gangs of criminals are to blame for a growing number of the worst cases of industrial-scale dumping.
Last year there were 335 prosecutions for serious waste offences, 79 of them in Yorkshire and the North East, the highest in the country.
The Environment Agency said the region had the second highest tally for illegal dumping - 41 - with the South East coming top with 58.
Cases from Yorkshire included a brother and sister from Doncaster who were jailed in December for running an illegal tyre dump and a man from Knottingley, West Yorkshire, who was sent to prison for allowing scrap cars to contaminate land and for handling stolen goods.
The number of people sent to prison in England and Wales for committing serious waste crime offences has almost trebled in the last three years, the Environment Agency said.
Its annual waste crime report revealed that organised gangs had dumped waste in urban areas and close to motorways.
Nationally 16 people were handed custodial sentences last year for major waste crimes including running large-scale illegal waste sites.
Among them was businessman Carl Steele, of Spalding, Lincolnshire, who dumped over one million tyres across England - including Yorkshire - causing environmental damage and undercutting legitimate tyre recyclers.
Just six offenders were sent to prison in 2009.
New figures show a rise in the number and size of financial penalties handed out to waste criminals.
Last year, the courts issued £1.7 million in fines for serious waste offences – nearly £800,000 more than the previous year.
The highest single fine issued in 2011 was £170,000 – three-and-a-half times more than the biggest fine served in 2010.
The courts also ordered a total £2.2m of assets to be confiscated from criminals who had made money through illegal waste activity.
Confiscation orders for Yorkshire totalled around £50,000. The Environment Agency has 132 waste-related financial investigations ongoing.
The report highlights a rise in the number of serious incidents related to the dumping of construction and demolition waste.
And while more than 750 large-scale illegal waste sites were shut down in the past year, the number of sites detected has continued to grow because of increased intelligence developed by the Environment Agency’s new £5m Illegal Waste Sites Taskforce.
Louis Harvey, the agency’s environment manager, said: “Waste crime can cause pollution, pose risks to people’s health and undercut legitimate businesses. We’ve stepped up the fight and we are increasingly seeing waste offenders being made to pay for their crimes.
“But we are not complacent and there is more to do particularly around cracking down on illegal waste sites. Our new taskforce will help us break this cycle. However, we can’t do it on our own. We need everyone to play their part in helping to tackle waste crime.”
As well as asking to see a skip hire company’s registration certificate, people can report waste crime to the Environment Agency on 0800 807060 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
Businesses and local authorities should check with their contractor how they dispose of waste, understand what permissions the contractor has and, most importantly, what the permissions mean and report and share information about illegal waste activity with the Environment Agency.