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SEPA appeals for information to tackle waste crime in North Lanarkshire

Date published: 02 October 2023

Enforcement operations

Scotland’s environmental regulator is appealing for information from members of the public following a day of action investigating potentially illegal activity at a location linked to waste vehicles in North Lanarkshire last week (Thursday 28 September).

Around 16 officers from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) were joined by officers from North Lanarkshire Council and Police Scotland to gather information on the range of businesses operating in the area, the size and scale of operations, the number of vehicles present and the risk of harm to the environment.

The location in question, which SEPA is not identifying due to its ongoing investigation, has expanded significantly without the appropriate environmental and planning permissions, and there are concerns around waste criminality.

Tackling waste crime in North Lanarkshire and beyond

As part of its ongoing commitment to tackle environmental crime and as an environment protection agency ready to tackle the challenges of the 21st Century, SEPA has a dedicated intelligence and enforcement function supporting geographic teams in investigating waste crime.

Calum McGregor, Unit Manager in SEPA’s Environmental Crime Team, said:

“We are warning criminals - your activities are firmly in the spotlight and compliance with Scotland’s environmental laws is non-negotiable. In Scotland, businesses committed to doing the right thing by our environment will find a regulator that supports innovation and excellence. For those who do the wrong thing you’ll find a regulator that won’t hesitate to act.

“We know that unauthorised end of life vehicle (ELV) sites can be linked to other criminality, which is why days of action such as this are so important to tackling waste criminality on a national level. Working with partners such as Police Scotland and local authorities – as well as Scotland’s Serious Organised Crime Task Force, the Joint Unit for Waste Crime, and cross border agencies - means that SEPA can make it harder for criminals to get a foot in legitimate waste businesses, and where these sites have appeared it will become easier to require those responsible to clean them up.

“I’d encourage anyone who thinks they may have information about waste crime in Scotland to get in touch with SEPA. Our officers cannot be everywhere, and the public are often our eyes and ears across the country. While this day of action was targeted at end-of-life vehicles, please do share any concerns you may have about waste crime of any type. Other suspicious activity can include approaches to bury waste on land, increases in lorries moving on and off sites (especially at night) as well as sudden increases in waste amounts, odours and flies.”

Appeal for information

Members of the public who believe they may have information about waste crime in the area, including individuals or companies buying scrap cars without providing the appropriate paperwork (such as a Certificate of Destruction), dumping of tyres or unusual activity at sites are encouraged to contact SEPA.

This can be done 24 hours a day, seven days a week, through SEPA’s Pollution Hotline, either online or by calling 0800 80 70 60. Reports can be made anonymously – but people are encouraged to leave contact details so additional information can be gathered if required.

Criminality around end-of-life vehicles

Every year around two million new vehicles are registered in the UK and a similar number are scrapped. This means around two million tonnes of vehicle waste each year – along with large volumes of waste tyres.

End of life vehicles (ELVs) contain a range of potential contaminants such as engine oil, coolant, brake and steering fluids, oily vehicle parts such as engines, gearboxes and axles, and oil filters and batteries, which all pose a risk to the environment if they are not treated, recycled or disposed of properly. Sites that deal with ELVs must hold a Waste Management Licence or exemption from SEPA, which will contain a number of conditions or rules designed to ensure the environment is protected. Waste vehicles must be stored and treated without causing harm to the environment and specific requirements, such as impermeable surfaces with provision for spillage collection and appropriate storage containers for parts and fluids, must be met.

Tackling illegal ELV operators in Scotland is one of SEPA’s waste crime priorities and is identified as a concern by legitimate operators, as it undermines their business viability and ability to invest and innovate.

The agency estimates that there are currently over 100 unauthorised ELV sites across Scotland, ranging from small scale breaking of vehicles for reselling parts to industrial estates where multiple unlicensed ELV operations are taking place. Evidence suggests that many may be involved in wider criminality and a few may have links to serious and organised crime groups.

Notes to editors

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Due to ongoing investigations SEPA will not be able to facilitate interviews in relation to the day of action.

Waste crime

  • Waste crime has a serious and detrimental impact on the environment, communities and compliant businesses, costing Scottish taxpayers tens of millions a year in clean-up costs, avoided tax and lost revenue.
  • SEPA’s investigative waste enforcement includes the monitoring of over 325 active cases including 59 high priority sites, some linked to serious and organised crime activities.

End of life vehicles

  • If your car is no longer in working order, take it to a registered scrapyard. Ask for a copy of their SEPA Waste Management Licence number, and if they cannot give you one do not give them your vehicle.
  • When you dispose of your car, you must send its registration document to the Driving and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) and obtain a Certificate of Destruction.


  • If you are hiring someone to take your waste away, make sure they are a legitimate business. Do not give your waste to potential criminals.
  • Check the company is registered with SEPA
  • You can also contact SEPA to check a Waste Carrier Licence number you have been given if you cannot find it online.
  • Remember companies that operate in different parts of the UK may be registered with the Environment Agency or Natural Resources Wales
  • A registration with SEPA, the EA or NWR is valid in any of these three countries. Your carrier will tell you where they are registered.


Waste guidance businesses

Further information