Household waste disguised as hay bales dumped in Essex

Bales of household waste
Image caption The bales of waste were discovered on farmland off Arterial Way, Purfleet

Hundreds of tonnes of household and business waste has been disguised as plastic-wrapped hay, straw or silage bales and dumped on farmland in Essex.

About 1,500 tonnes of waste was discovered on the land in Purfleet.

Three men from east London, aged 19, 23 and 47, have been arrested on suspicion of depositing and storing waste on an unpermitted site.

They were interviewed by Environment Agency officers and bailed until 10 July pending further inquiries.

The Environment Agency said it was concerned other sites in Essex may be targeted in a similar way.

The agency believes people are making huge sums of money by charging to take away household or business waste but then dumping it at remote rural locations.

'Massive and organised'

The rubbish is being compacted into plastic wrapping, capable of holding about half a tonne.

These are taken to fields or open land and built into haystack shapes.

Lesley Robertson, an Environment Agency environmental crime team leader, said the discovery of about 3,000 bales of rubbish, including food waste, plastic and cans, was thought to be linked to a highly-organised scam.

"This is an emerging trend but the first time evidence of the scam has been found in south Essex," she said.

"However, we are concerned that more bales may have been dumped elsewhere and we want to urge people to look out for these sites and report them to us.

"This is a form of fly-tipping but on a massive and organised scale. The bales are being stored to look like farmers' haystacks and the contents will only come to light if the bags tear."

Anyone finding a suspected dumping site is asked to call the Environment Agency or Crimestoppers.

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