Between 2018 – 2019, The UK’s Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs released ‘fly tipping’ statistics that there were one million (1,072,000) fly-tipping cases across England on public land. What impact does it have on the environment and how can we prevent fly-tipping? Read on to find out what you can do to help prevent fly-tipping and actions to take if you fall victim to illegal dumping and hazardous waste on your property.
Quite simply, the definition of fly tipping is to throw away your rubbish in unauthorised places. Fly tipping isn’t quite the same as littering (even if the impact is one in the same) and is, instead, generally defined as larger waste items and objects being disposed of.
Typically, fly tipping is a waste crime committed out of convenience. The waste items often involved everyday materials that harder to dispose or remove, such as construction waste, sofas and large kitchen appliances, or white good, like fridge freezers.
The legal definition of fly-tipping, according to Defra (The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), describes the “illegal dumping of liquid or solid waste on land or in water”.
Often criminals will be disposed of unwanted waste in discreet locations, such as country roads, wooded areas, and carparks. This is often a crime of opportunity, because there are less people around to witness it. Yet, the most common location for fly-tipping is beside a road. In fact, 46% of total fly tipping incidents between 2018-2019 happened on pavements and roads.
In 2020, The Woodland Trust reported a significant increase in littering activity and fly-tipping, especially as the Coronavirus restrictions were lifted. In the previous year, the same charity announced that the cost of clearing up waste and mess in woodland areas would amount to over a million pounds in seven years.
Fly tipping has an incredibly negative impact on local communities and environments. At best, fly tipping is unsightly and, at worst, it’s a crime of a costly fine and can risk the safety of others’ health.
The damage and costs associated with fly-tipping can quickly add up. Whether harmful to human health, or damaging to the natural environment and its resources, waste crimes like fly-tipping is unacceptable for a range of reasons, including:
Tipped waste should be deposited properly and safely (not to mention sustainably). That means recycling where possible, making sure hazardous and harmful chemicals are disposed of, and putting biodegradable materials to better use – like turning food waste into biogas.
Interestingly, 62% of UK fly tipping incidents are household waste, which indicates a general lack of understanding amongst homeowners. Mattresses, sinks, plumbing waste, armchairs freezers and kitchen units – getting rid of these items properly can be time consuming and costly, and this kind of misconceived inconvenience often leads to waste crimes. This problem is compounded when homeowners unwittingly pay counterfeit companies to improperly dispose of waste.
Fly tipping by an unauthorised third party is a common problem, because waste is often criminally disposed of, rather than sustainably managed. The home office, for example, has identified criminals using waste disposal businesses.
In order to further understand the motivation behind fly-tipping, as well as increase awareness about the scale of the problem, Defra conducted some research in 2018. After communication with five local authorities and discussion groups with 60 participants, it was found that there was generally a low-level awareness about the Household Waste Duty of Care, or the need for waste carriers to obtain a specific licence.
Much as the general attitude that fly-tipping was unacceptable, there were concerns that general council costs for removal and depositing were too high. Residents were, generally, unaware of what fly-tipping actually is, with others viewing it as not their responsibility.
In other cases, people felt that all waste disposal at recycling centres should be a free service for businesses and that domestic collections should be more regular. Other views were influenced by how far away the local waste services were.
Those who offended as part of an organised crime, counted economic pressure, convenience and the minimal risk of being caught and punished.
The conclusion by Defra was that information on the topic should be targeted at the public to heighten awareness and help make the connection between the public and the council.
Fly tipping green waste is common when people need to get rid of gardening waste and don’t want to pay for a brown council bin, or they employ illegitimate waste collectors. There is a belief that fly tipping garden waste isn’t as bad as fly tipping rubbish because it is degradable. But legislation is contrary to that, as it is still considered fly tipping.
Dumping garden waste in hedgerows or in woodlands can interfere with the natural eco systems and cause issues with waterways such as blocked drains, or contamination from pesticides used in growing garden flowers.
According to the government fly tipping statistics, the most common sized amounts of waste for a single fly tip is at 33%, which equates to a ‘small van load’, or at 28% and amounting to the size of a car boot. This suggests that in this instance, individuals and sole traders are the main culprits.
4% of illegal waste tip sites were regarded as a ‘tipper lorry loads’ or larger. This accounted for 34,000 of fly-tipping incidents that year. Local authorities were left responsible for clean-up.
As recently as August 2020, it was revealed from a freedom of information request by the Liberal Democrat party, that only 3.6% of complaints about environmental damage and fly-tipping resulted in penalty or fine, which means there’s more that can be done to regulate this crime.
Fly tipping regulations fall under two categories in British law:
According to this law, it is an offence to “Knowingly cause or permit to be deposited…waste in or on land unless in accordance with the terms of a waste management licence…. Treat keep or dispose of controlled waste that could case environmental pollution or harm human health”.
The Act was then amended in 2005 under this piece of legislation.
Most notably, amendments included:
“Under section 1 of the Control of Pollution (Amendment) Act 1989, it is an offence for anyone who is not a registered carrier of controlled waste to transport such waste within Great Britain in the course of any business of his or otherwise with a view to profit. Controlled waste is defined as household, industrial and commercial waste”.
“Section 41 Penalties on conviction … increases the maximum available fine on summary conviction for the illegal disposal of waste from £20,000 to £50,000 and raises the maximum term of imprisonment on conviction on indictment for non-hazardous waste offences to five years (the same as is already applied for offences involving hazardous waste)”.
As the problem of fly tipping has grown, it’s been a topic of much debate in the houses of parliament, most recently in 2005 and again in 2017. Weighing up the costs of fly tipping, against overall savings made from strategies like reduced rubbish collections and increased charges at the dump, has been an ongoing conversation. MPs voted to give powers to the Environmental Agency (EA) to seize and dispose of vehicles used for fly tipping by way of a better deterrent.
Conviction rates for fly-tippers are low, so emphasis on helping councils take the reins in helping catch and prosecute perpetrators has been identified as a solution. When surveyed, 88% of local councils felt that increasing penalties would help tackle fly-tipping. In response, the government introduced further fly tipping penalties to help with the fight against waste crime. This includes fixed fines of up to £400 for individuals found guilty of non-authorised waste dumping. Local authorities were given new protocols to follow, with more power to punish perpetrators.
Currently, householders are not required to have a licence for their waste, but they do face a fine if they don’t take reasonable measures to ensure their waste is lawfully disposed of. For repeat offences, penalties can be tougher. These commonly include failures for not putting rubbish out for collection on the correct day, or allowing unreasonable amounts of rubbish to build up, householders may find themselves under an ASBO (Anti Social Behaviour Order) and be issued fixed penalties.
The number of fixed penalty notices issued by local authorities has increased by 11% from 2018-19 to 76,000. 16% of those were issued for small scale fly-tipping, 48% in relation to littering and 26,000 for other offences.
It’s clear that local authorities are hoping that giving a fine for fly tipping will work as a deterrent (particularly after a fly tipping first-time offence).
Statistics for fly tipping on private property is not included in the government figures, so we can assume the problem is even bigger than originally suspected.
On private land, the landowner must remove the waste and get rid of it legally themselves. Local authorities and the Environmental Agency have legal power that force landowners to clear waste, using the Environmental Protection Act 1990, the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 and the Environmental Act 1995.
If landowners fail to act themselves, then the EA and local authority can enter the property and clear it, applying for reimbursement later on.
To investigate the scale of the problem, the EA conducted a study of eight landowners across the country. Approximately, 94% of private landowners reported that they had been victim to fly-tippers, costing an average of £809 to remove rubbish in each case. Some experienced incidents up to 100 times a year.
A rural crime survey said that 57% of participants have seen fly-tipping firsthand within the last 12 months, showing a 6% rise. The 2020 Rural Crime Report highlights that fly-tipping has become a huge problem for farmers, who are left to deal with increasing numbers of lorries turning up to dump rubbish in their fields. The problem has worsened since the COVID-19 pandemic after the closure of many authority recycle centres.
There is no doubt of the unfairness of having to clear up and pay for someone else’s illegal mess on your property, which is why private landowners are taking more measures to try to prevent fly-tipping. That’s why it’s really important to report fly tipping on private land so authorities can include the incidents in their overall statistics and accurately track of the overall problem.
For UK landowners, options to deter fly tippers might include “No Fly Tipping” signage as well as specialised fly tipping CCTV designed to detect movement during the night, which activates automated lighting. Making access more difficult with either natural or manmade barricade and barriers is also a good way to prevent people from entering the premises.
There are many local projects happening across the country to beat this problem, which look at education and information-based solutions too. Rural and urban residents can set up voluntary schemes where their waste is ‘accredited’ to them. The premise of this idea is for transparency from all – if you have nothing to hide and are ensuring your waste is disposed of correctly, then you have nothing to worry about. If a resident opts out of being a part of the scheme and their waste shows up illegally fly tipped, they are accountable for it.
The National Fly Tipping Prevention Group is an organisation supported by Defra who are working towards better prevention of fly-tipping through the union of several organisations. Raising awareness, influencing and advising about the environmental damage caused by fly-tipping, they have several aims. From better understanding why people fly-tip and using that intelligence to influence change, to collating evidence and present data about fly-tipping, to influencing the development of government policy and legislation, The NFTPG seek to be the “key source of information for those affected by fly-tipping and a source of best practice for local authorities”.
For business, the ESA (Environmental Services Association) has identified that 90% of businesses breaking the law on waste management have between 0-50 employees. The Right Waste, Right Placecampaign aims to educate these types of smaller businesses on how to comply with the law better.
For companies who produce packaging for their products, there are updated government packaging waste regulations that are designed to address the problems that come with certain types of packaging, not least of all how it can end up as part of the fly tipping problem.
Policies aim to:
There are few worse discoveries than finding fly tipping on your property. The first thing you should do is tell the Environment Agency. This is important to help keep track of where and when this is happening around the country, so the problem will be better dealt with.
Visit the government website page for instructions on how to report and environmental Incident with a useful hotline number (please note: the EA are not obligated to remove the rubbish).
If the amount of waste is sizeable, you will probably need the help of an experienced fly tip removal company.
The Grounds Care Group are passionate about the environment and make it a central element of all our grounds maintenance, landscaping, gritting and Japanese knotweed removal work. We carry out bulk waste removal with professionalism and efficiency, taking great care to ensure that we dispose of waste correctly, avoiding landfill wherever possible.
Our fly tipping removal service is completely transparent, documenting exactly where we have taken each item of collected waste and sharing our records with our customers. We have a live reporting system so you’re in the loop the entire time we perform any work on your grounds. Our goal is that you have complete peace of mind that your rubbish has been taken care of appropriately and legally. Get in touch today to find out how we can help.