POLICE are urging Essex farmers and landowners to beware of a scam in which household and business waste is being illegally dumped on open land and camouflaged as plastic-wrapped hay bales. The warning follows the discovery of about 1,500 tons of waste after a search warrant was executed on land in south Essex. Officers from the Environment Agency (EA) are now concerned that other sites in Essex may be targeted in the same way. Investigators from the EA believe that criminals are making large sums of money by charging to take away household or business waste but then dumping it at remote rural locations instead of using official permitted sites. The rubbish is being compacted into plastic wrapping, capable of holding about half a ton. These are taken to fields or open land and built into haystack shapes, to give the impression that they are seemingly ‘normal’ plastic bags used by farmers to store hay, straw or silage. Lesley Robertson, an Environment Agency crime team leader, said the discovery of the rubbish bales in Essex is believed to be linked to a highly-organised criminal scam. She said: “This is an emerging trend but the first time evidence of the scam has been found in south Essex. 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. “The waste includes all forms of household and business rubbish such as food waste, plastic and cans. They are being dumped and abandoned with total disregard for the environment, landowners and any member of the public who use the land. “We urge any landowners, farmers, ramblers or dog walkers who find these sites to call us immediately on our 24-hour free incident hotline number 0800 80 70 60 or make an anonymous report to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.” n Three men, aged 19, 23 and 47 and all from east London were arrested on suspicion of depositing and storing waste on an unpermitted site when police and the Environment Agency executed a warrant on land off Arterial Road, Purfleet on April 10. They were interviewed at Grays police station before being released on bail until Wednesday, July 10 by EA officers pending further enquiries.