The UK’s £1bn waste crime issue – one solution might be closer than you think

Avery Weigh-Tronix

Waste crime is understood to be taking place on a huge scale, diverting vital funds from the public purse and from UK businesses, to the tune of £1bn annually.

Since all waste on processing sites is measured and reported by weight, weighbridges have a crucial part to play in ensuring an efficient system. Unfortunately, this also leaves weighbridges a target for manipulation, potentially enabling fraudulent activity to take place. Waste fraud in the form of tax evasion could be costing the UK economy £300m annually, according to the most recent estimates.

So what does weighbridge fraud in the waste industry look like? How does it happen and who’s at risk? Most importantly, how can you prevent it from happening?

Here, we uncover some known weighbridge waste crime practices and suggest how these can be countered using your existing weighbridge system.

Weighbridge manipulation

This type of fraud usually happens when the operator and transporter siphon off waste materials for illegal sale, by failing to unload the entire quantity. For instance, the operator might instruct the driver to position the vehicle in an incorrect position on the weighbridge, so that a lower weight is captured. The un-weighed waste is then sold in the market.

System manipulation

Coordination between the operator, software developer, transporter and supplier is required for system manipulation fraud. There are many ways that a weighing system could be manipulated, but as an example, a developer could provide hidden functionality in the system, allowing the operator to manually override the weighbridge weight and alter it. This type of fraud is usually led by the supplier, who gets away with supplying a smaller quantity of waste than invoiced.

Operator manipulation

If the operator can capture the weight of an alternate vehicle instead of the vehicle with siphoned waste goods, they can record fraudulent data. For example, the operator could record the weight of a genuine vehicle supplying waste to a Materials Recycling Facility on two slips – one for the genuine vehicle and another for the one with siphoned goods. The duplicate slip is used for the fraudulent vehicle – the actual weight of the siphoned vehicle is never captured and the supplier is overcharged for waste they’ve supplied whilst the siphoned waste is sold off separately and fraudulently.

Vehicle weight manipulation

Usually executed by the transporter or driver, this type of fraud occurs when waste materials are siphoned off in transit and replaced with materials such as tyres, tool boxes or water tanks. These remain unobserved when weighing the shipment. Suppliers can also manipulate vehicle weight for financial gain. For example, a coal supplier could pour water over the coal in the truck to increase the weight of the consignment by increasing the moisture content.

A readymade solution

Weighbridges are at the heart of many waste processing operations, so taking steps to ensure that the system is fit-for-purpose and not open to abuse is a straightforward and highly effective way to prevent fraud.

The Avery Weigh-Tronix ZM510 indicator is a high performance system that not only captures weight data, but can also run custom applications to provide additional control and interaction with the weighbridge operation for busy operations.

The ZM510 Weighbridge Fraud Prevention application is another new, bespoke solution to help protect weighbridges from fraudulent activity. Integrated with custom-fitted sensors, the system can verify whether each vehicle has fully entered or exited the weighbridge weighing zone, highlighting potentially fraudulent weighments.

The Weighbridge Fraud Protection system counters fraud by having sensors both at the entry and exit of the weighbridge. These sensors can be photo-electric or pressure sensors, selected to suit each individual operating environment and system, for maximum efficacy and a fit-for-purpose operation. A passive mode can be selected so that detection of abnormal weighments takes place in background without alerting operators. This information can be analysed periodically to determine the percentage of under-weighing that occurred and to calculate the unrecovered revenues.

For additional control and greater efficiency, the Weighbridge Traffic Management application gives the operator remote control of traffic lights, barriers, positioning sensors and remote displays. This provides more improved traffic flow and controlled marshalling ensuring tailgating and re-weighs are prevented.

The application also provides invaluable calibration and maintenance reminders ensuring the weighbridge is at its maximum efficiency and that audit compliance is met.

Proactive prevention

Another way to minimise the risk of weighbridge fraud is through regular servicing and maintenance checks. Taking a preventative approach will quickly identify any malfunctions or set up issues with the indicator or weight readings – and will flag if a weighbridge is weighing inaccurately, resulting in under or overcharging.

The BridgeCare Total™ service plan from Avery Weigh-Tronix offers comprehensive, all-inclusive cover for weighbridges, ensuring that equipment is regularly maintained, diagnosed and repaired quickly, to the highest standards.

BridgeCare Total™ makes it easy to keep on top of preventative maintenance with regular health checks included, to identify and fix weighbridge issues before they can develop. For operations that require weighbridge transactions to be legally verified, the BridgeCare Total™ plan also guarantees an industry-leading 97% operational uptime*, ensuring the site runs effectively and minimises costly downtime.

Thanks to the UK’s largest fleet of ten weighbridge test units, a fast reverification service following repair is guaranteed. Named Avery Weigh-Tronix engineers are assigned to specific sites, ensuring rapid repair and maximum uptime.

Reduce your liability

Site operators not only risk lost revenue through waste fraud, but also leave themselves legally liable for any illegal practices taking place on site. As waste fraud becomes more prevalent, businesses in the waste sector need to demonstrate proactive steps being taken to prevent waste fraud: a failure to prove this can result in prosecution.

With a growing range of intelligent indicator options and comprehensive service plans, enhancing your weighbridge system is a quick, easy and cost-effective way of controlling waste processing operations, protecting revenue and putting a stop to waste fraud.

For more information about the ZM510 anti-fraud applications and BridgeCare, visit the Avery Weigh-Tronix website.

*97% operational uptime per weighing system is guaranteed – or we’ll refund a proportion of your annual fee.

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