EA chief compares waste crime to 1980s drugs industry

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The chief executive of the Environment Agency has said that the recycling and waste industry has similarities to the development of the illegal drugs sector in the 1980s.

In an interview with the Guardian, Sir James Bevan said illegal operators and sites were being cracked down on, but like the drugs industry it was taking society time to respond effectively.

He said: “Waste is the narcotics. It feels to me like drugs felt in the 1980s: the system hasn’t quite woken up to the enormity of what was going on and was racing to catch up.

“With drugs it took a while for the system to catch up and realise the damage drugs were doing. We are clear now about the damage waste crime does to communities and to the economy.

“The strategy is to work with the good guys and really nail the bad guys. We are both finding more [illegal sites] and nailing more. As the statistics show, we haven’t cracked it yet and it will be a long grind, but we are making progress.”