Fly-tipping is a criminal offence and it’s blighting our towns and our countryside. We’ve all seen those ugly piles of old mattresses, bin bags, rusting fridges and building materials dumped by the side of the road.
Unfortunately it’s on the increase across the UK, partly as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and the associated lockdowns. Camden in North London is the nation’s fly-tipping hotspot, with nearly 100 incidents a day.
The clean-up bills are significant – in England there were a staggering 976,000 fly-tipping incidents in 2019-20, according to figures from DEFRA – and this figure doesn’t include fly-tipping cases on private land. By some estimates the clean-up effort is costing local authorities in excess of £50 million a year. Fly-tipping also causes environmental damage and harms wildlife, so it’s clearly not a victimless crime.
Our MD, Neil Barham, is very concerned about the impact of fly-tipping: “At Danhouse we’ve had fly-tipping cases happen near some of the sites for which we provide security services. It’s unpleasant and anti-social, and we want people to know what they should do when they see it.”
Why Do People Do It?
The main reasons are laziness and saving money. If you want your waste removed, you generally have to pay someone else to do it, or else take it down to your local household waste recycling centre yourself. For those without any social conscience, fly-tipping seems an easy way to dispose of waste, building materials or unwanted belongings without having to pay.
It’s thought that the increase in fly-tipping has partly been driven by changes in local government policy – councils in some areas have introduced or increased fees for their bulk collection services, or have introduced new fees at household recycling centres. Since the start of the pandemic, most household waste recycling centres have been providing a reduced service and allowing pre-booked visits only.
Impact on Wildlife and the Environment
Fly-tipping can be dangerous to both humans and animals, as it may contain toxic materials. There have been cases where pet dogs have been injured when they have encountered fly-tipped construction waste. Local wildlife may consume the waste or get trapped or injured in it.
Fly-tipping certainly spoils our enjoyment of the countryside – none of us wants to see an area of natural beauty turned into a dumping ground.
Who’s Responsible for Cleaning It Up
Most fly-tipping takes place on public land, so the local council has to arrange for the clean-up and foot the bill for this. As councils depend on money from taxpayers, it means that the whole country is picking up the tab for this type of crime.
If it happens on private land or on private roads, councils are not obliged to clear it up. It’s the responsibility of the landowner to do this.
What Are The Punishments for Fly-Tippers?
Local councils have the power to issue on-the-spot fines of up to £400 to fly-tippers, although it’s not often that the culprits actually get caught in the act. Councils can stop, search and impound vehicles which are suspected of being used to fly-tip. They can also issue penalties of up to £400 to people who don’t use a licensed carrier to dispose of their waste and whose waste is then found to have been fly-tipped.
The maximum penalties for fly-tippers are pretty severe – if cases go to the Crown Court, fines of up to £50,000 and sentences of up to 5 years in prison can be handed down.
If You See It Happening
If you see fly-tipping taking place, it’s best not to approach the people doing it directly. They will know that what they’re doing is illegal and may react with violence if approached.
If you want to report it, make a note of the time and location of the fly-tipping, give a description of the people and vehicle involved, noting the vehicle registration plate. If you can take photographs of the perpetrators and the vehicle, without them seeing you do this, this will be very helpful.
Go onto the gov.uk website, enter the postcode of the location where the fly-tipping happened and you’ll find details of the local council to which the incident should be reported: www.gov.uk/report-flytipping
Only Use Reputable Household Waste Disposal Companies
If you have household waste you need to get rid of and can’t dispose of it yourself at your local recycling centre, find a reputable company to do this for you. There are a lot of waste disposal companies out there, but unfortunately not all of them can be trusted, as it’s a business that attracts unscrupulous operators.
There have been cases where criminal gangs have posed as legitimate waste disposal businesses. They advertise their services on the internet, collect waste from households for a fee, dump the waste on public or private land, then disappear, leaving councils or landowners to clear up the mess.
When using the services of a household waste disposal company, make sure you do the following before you hand over your money:
take down the company representative’s name and contact details
find out from the carrier where your waste is being taken to
get a receipt confirming what has been taken by the carrier.
ask for details of the company’s Waste Carrier Licence and check this on the Government (Environment Agency) website: Waste carriers, brokers and dealers (data.gov.uk)
If the company collecting your waste isn’t registered and either can’t or won’t give you information about where the load is going, don’t use their services. If they fly-tip your waste and it can be traced back to you, you may be prosecuted or receive a Fixed Penalty Notice.