In April 2020, the House of Commons published a briefing paper regarding fly-tipping, its implications for the environment as well as the penalties and responsibilities derived from it. With continuous discussions regarding the environment and the policies put in place by countries globally to save it, it’s concerning that fly-tipping still occurs and is still often overlooked by local councils and the British government.
What is fly-tipping?
Fly-tipping is the illegal and unlicenced disposal of household, industrial, commercial or other ‘controlled’ waste onto land or water. Although it is different from littering, it can still have the same environmental impact, if not worse, due to the potential disposal of hazardous items.
This has been an ongoing issue for years. The latest reports, dating from 2018/19, stated that the local authorities in England dealt with over 1 million reports of fly-tipping. 62% off the reports were for household waste and 46% of fly-tipping cases occurred on pavements and roads.
Additionally, the Countryside Alliance has stated that since the beginning of the lockdown, fly-tipping cases have increased in some parts of the UK by more than 300%. This could be the result of people online shopping, revamping homes and doing DIY jobs or clearing out all unwanted items from their home.
Implications of fly-tipping
Firstly, it can cost between £86 million to £186 million every year to both investigate and clean up. This money is accumulated through taxpayers and private landowners.
Unfortunately, if a private landowner were to fall victim to fly-tipping, they would legally have to pay the cost of cleaning it up. If they remove the waste in an illegal manner, then they can be found guilty and fined despite it not being their rubbish. This is clearly unfair to private landowners who are then held responsible for the safe disposal of waste. However, they do have the ability to report it and claim their money back, which will be discussed later.
Moreover, fly-tipping can tarnish an areas reputation which can lead to several problems – a major one being the housing market. The cost of property can diminish due to the environment it is in. If there is a constant dump of rubbish on the streets, not only would the local area look displeasing, but it can also smell terrible and have an increase in vermin. Landowners can then be forced to sell their property below market value. Constant fly-tipping can also deter tourists from entering the area which can impact local businesses and restaurants.
Furthermore, the most substantial issue with fly-tipping is its threat to humans and wildlife. As it stands, the world is already struggling to tackle global warming and fly-tipping is only intensifying the problem. Especially when larger appliances such as washing machines and fridges, which contain hazardous chemicals, are thrown out to the curb.
What is currently being done to prevent fly-tipping?
As fly-tipping is a criminal offence, a person can be fined up to £50,000 or sentenced to 12 months’ imprisonment if convicted in a Magistrates Court. If, however, the case goes to Crown Court, then the defendant can be subjected to an unlimited fine and up to 5 years imprisonment. There are also numerous penalties which can be applicable such as having vehicles seized, fixed penalty notices and householders can be fined up to £400 if they pass their waste to an unlicensed waste carrier. Those convicted of fly-tipping offences can now be made to pay the costs of enforcement and investigation, as well as the clean-up costs.
Local authorities have asked the public to report any fly-tippers they see. They have also been informed not to approach them for their own safety as there have been incidents where fly-tippers have pulled out weapons to deter the public from approaching or reporting them.
Additionally, the government has funded a project called ‘Flycapture’ to prevent fly-tipping. It’s managed by the Environment Agency and the data produced from this technology can allow local councils, the Environment Agency and the government, better understand the issue and measure the success of policies.
Open Access Government (OAG) has suggested that councils need to work closely with waste removal companies to make sure rubbish is safely removed and not dumped on the streets. They also believe technology can play a significant role in this and the OAG has already launched a fly-tipping alert system to aid councils.
The system allows anyone in the UK to report a fly-tipping problem using GPS. The individual can use images and add details about the fly-tipping incident, so the council and removal companies have a clear picture of what to expect. This information will then be sent to the local council for clearance. The OAG believe that this system is the way forward because fly-tipping can be immediately addressed and dealt with. The online system brings consumers, businesses and the council together in 60 seconds- meaning this approach could be more efficient and effective.
What to do if you come across fly-tipping?
If you spot fly-tipping, please be cautious. There may be hazardous waste items, so it is best to leave everything as you found it and not move the rubbish yourself.
Further, fly-tippers do not want to be caught as they are doing something illegal. As stated before, do not approach anyone who is fly-tipping as the issue can escalate into something worse. You can, however, record any details if you witness fly-tippers. This will help authorities find whoever committed the crime and stop them from doing it in the future.
If you are the victim of a fly-tipping incident, dispose of the waste correctly and inform the local authorities. The costs you spend for doing so can be reimbursed if there is a successful prosecution. It is advised that you take pictures of the fly-tipping on your land and submit the form linked.
Whether you come across fly-tipping on public or private land, it is important that you report the incident. Not only can you do it via the Open Access Government page, but you can also contact your local authority directly or the Environment Agency. Both parties have what is known as the ‘Fly-tipping Protocol’. This framework agreement allows both parties the flexibility to make arrangements that meet local circumstances.
If we all work together, we can put a stop to fly-tipping and aid the environment as well as economy. Fly-tipping is an inconvenience for us all and can heavily damage the earth. This is a matter which must be considered more, and everyone can do their part to help.