Three men from England have been arrested on suspicion of illegally exporting waste tyres to countries in the Far East.
The men - from Essex, Lincolnshire and Kent - were arrested following an eight month investigation by the Environment Agency, which gathered intelligence from a range of sources. It is alleged that the men were charging tyre fitters to recycle old tyres in the UK, before exporting them to Vietnam and Hong Kong in order to avoid recycling costs. This practice directly contravenes the Transfrontier Shipment of Waste Regulations 2007 and the European Waste Shipment Regulations 2006.
Environment Agency National Crime Team Manager Andy Higham said: "The UK produces almost 50 million used tyres every year and it is now illegal to send them to landfill - they should be recycled here in the UK"."To export tyres that are not UK road legal and are therefore waste, exporters must check that the country of destination will accept waste tyres for recovery and recycling".
"The law is clear - it is always illegal to export waste from the UK to be dumped overseas."
City of London Police Senior Investigating Officer, DCI Dave Clark said: "This case is a prime example of how police and government organisations such as the Environment Agency are coordinating their efforts to stop people committing fraud.
"As the Lead Force for fraud we will continue to do everything in our power to support and assist our colleagues to halt this damaging illegal trade."
While old tyres are widely regarded as waste, they are still a valuable resource and can be used in a variety of industrial processes. Nonetheless, improper disposal of tyres can pose a huge environmental risk as they do not decompose and will release highly toxic fumes if they catch fire.
The UK produces 49 million tyres every year. Around one quarter are suitable for reuse as second-hand tyres, another quarter are burned for energy (under strict controls) due to a similar calorific value to coal and around 34 percent are recycled into a range of products, including consumer items, drainage systems and sporting surfaces.
Image © Paul Lampard