Combatting waste crime and environmental vandalism

Combatting waste crime and environmental vandalism
06 December 2019

Combatting waste crime and environmental vandalism

The oil and gas industry will produce significant amounts of wastes and reusable and recyclable material which will only increase as the number of operational platforms decreases and the pace of decommissioning increases. In order to ensure that this waste is being recycled, reused, treated or disposed of legally, new technologies are being developed.

The Department for Business, Environment and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), guidance for the Decommissioning of Offshore Oil and Gas Installations and Pipelines states clearly: “The decommissioning process produces waste that requires effective management by those responsible for decommissioning activity to ensure all waste produced offshore is legally transported, recycled, reused or disposed of safely by competent, authorised organisations and personnel.”

With more and more stories about organised crime dumping illegal waste on an industrial scale not only in the UK but worldwide, there is a need for companies to protect their reputation and more importantly the environment. We all need to be mindful that this criminal activity not only has a detrimental impact on the environment but also on the communities who live in close proximity to such actions. One way to address this is to utilise new technologies to safeguard organisations from such malpractice.

We are currently working with SmartWater on a project aimed at reducing this type of environmental vandalism. SmartWater has successfully applied for Innovate UK grant funding to assess applications in the waste industry. The driver for this research project were SmartWaters discussions with various industry representatives that expressed concern that organised crime gangs were infiltrating the waste management business, purporting to be legitimate ‘ethical’ enterprises and then illegally dumping waste and making profits from avoiding treatment and landfill fees.
SmartWater is a traceable liquid and asset marking system that can be applied to hazardous waste and high value materials. The liquid leaves a long lasting and unique identifier; whose presence is invisible except under an ultraviolet black light. 

Phil Cleary SmartWater points out that “ethical waste management companies, confident of their practices, would welcome such an innovation if it became a mandatory part of a tender process for example. It would certainly deter ‘rogue’ companies who would be repelled and dissuaded from bidding, as they knew that, ultimately, they could be held to account.”

It is worth noting that once waste is marked with SmartWater ensures it can be forensically traced back to the vehicle that carried the waste, when it is subsequently dumped. The police, local authorities and environmental agencies already use SmartWater extensively to prove ownership of property and convict criminals. If a company’s waste is illegally dumped, the police can prove who it belongs to, where it came from, and who was charged with its disposal. Importantly SmartWater is the only forensic product of its type that has been independently accredited as compliant with the requirements of the UK Government’s Forensic Science Regulator and has been accepted as evidence in both European and US Federal Criminal Courts.

Active Waste Management Plans

The technology also supports the concept of Active Waste Management Plans (AWMP) which are recognised as being good practice by government and regulators to record waste management practices throughout the decommissioning cycle. Regulators (Environment Agency and SEPA) require operators to provide an AWMP that specifically states the destinations of all waste leaving the offshore location and provides for the monitoring of the handling and management of the wastes arising from the decommissioning works. AWMP ‘s provides an oversight of the waste management processes and demonstrate compliance with Duty of Care. 

Duty of Care

Waste producers have a duty of care to ensure that waste is passed to a suitably authorised person and that it cannot escape control or cause harm or pollution. This duty continues throughout the whole waste handling chain to the point of recovery. The tracking of hazardous and high value materials (including ferrous and nonferrous metals) are liable for greater regulatory scrutiny by the Environment Agency and SEPA. Failure to comply with the duty of care is an offence subject to an unlimited fine on conviction. 

Get involved - trial the technology

We are keen to test the technology and would like to find partners in the oil and gas industry to trial the initiative to assess the practical implications of the technology. If you would like to take part please contact us using the form on the right.