Fly tipping has long been a blight on society and saw a marked increase in incidents during the Covid pandemic when many councils closed their tips. Incidents of fly-tipping continue to cause problems for Councils, farmers and land-owners.
Fly tipping is defined as ‘the illegal deposit of any waste onto land that does not have a licence to accept it’. Local authorities and the Environment Agency both have a responsibility in respect of illegally dumped waste with certain obligations set out in the Environmental Protection Act 1990. Councils have a duty to clear fly tipped material from relevant land in their area so subsequently deal with the vast majority of incidents.
The Environment Agency is responsible for dealing with large-scale, serious and organised illegal dumping incidents which pose a threat to human health or the environment. Responsibility for fly tipping on private land rests with private landowners and is generally not reported in Government statistics. Most of our statistics below refer to figures for England only.
The above graph compiled by Defra outlines areas of England with the most incidents per 1000 people in 2022/23 compared to 2021/22.
During 2022/23 local authorities in England dealt with 1.08 million fly-tipping incidents, a decrease of 1% from the 1.09 million reported in 2021/22. 60% of fly-tips involved household waste and the most common place for fly-tipping was on pavements and roads which accounted for 40% of total fly-tipping incidents for the year.
The most common size category for fly-tipping incidents was equivalent to a small van load followed by a car boot or less capacity. However, there were 42,000 incidents of tipper lorry size or larger which is an increase of 13% on the previous year. For these large fly-tipping incidents the cost of clearance to local authorities in England was £13.2 million compared to £10.7 million in the previous year.
Local authorities in England carried out 536,000 enforcement actions in 2022/23, an increase of 29,000 actions in 2021/22. The number of fixed penalty notices issued was 73,000, a DECREASE of 19% on the previous year. The average court fine has increased form £466 to £526 but the number of court fines issued DECREASED by 17%. Overall the number of all prosecution actions has decreased by 15% although the success rate for prosecutions remains high at 97.2% resulting in a conviction.
To tackle the problem of fly tipping there have been two important developments. Firstly, the fixed penalty for most fly tipping offences has risen to a maximum of £1000. In serious cases this can rise up to £50,000 with 12 months imprisonment. Secondly, the onus is on households to check that any company they use to remove their waste carries a waste carrier’s licence. If a householder cannot prove they have delivered a duty of care in arranging disposal, they are open to a fine and possible prosecution. Households not complying with a duty of care in waste disposal can now be fined up to £600, an increase of £200 on the previous year. There is a free check service for licensed waste carriers on the gov.uk website or you can call the Environmental Agency on 08708 506506.
Walsall Council recently highlighted the financial strain the cleaning up of fly tipped waste has cost them over the past five years. Spending £1.75 million pounds, the Council estimates this would have paid for 40 teachers or 42 social workers or filled 8551 potholes.
The top five most frequently fly tipped items are :
Uncontrolled illegal waste disposal can be hazardous to the public especially if it contains toxic material or asbestos. There is also a risk to soil quality and waterways from such waste.
Farmers are particularly affected by incidents of fly tipping with over two thirds affected according to a recent Farmers Weekly survey. The true scale of incidents on private land is underestimated as not all incidents are reported. The Country Land and Business Association report that their members are ‘tired of not only cleaning up other people’s rubbish but paying for the privilege of doing so’ and have asked for the Government to act.
As evidenced in the graph below (via Defra), the majority of fly tipping incidents occurred next to a highway and involved household waste. Although this area showed a small decrease there were increases to Other which covers agricultural land, watercourse and railways, as well as increased incidents on Council land and footpaths.
So how do we start to eradicate illegal fly tipping? With a general consensus that organised criminal gangs are involved in large scale fly tipping, there is no easy answer. However, the Keep Britain Tidy organisation advocate enforcement, education and better recycling facilities as key to combatting the offence. Various council trials have shown a decrease in household fly tipping when there is a concerted and cohesive plan in place. This includes opening recycling centres for longer hours and offering free or reduced bulky collections. By encouraging and facilitating the lawful disposal of waste, it is obvious that authorities can remove some of the drivers that lead people to dispose of waste unlawfully.
In terms of waste carrier licenses, a recent Panorama programme highlighted a distinct lack of checks and balances in place on which waste carriers get a licence as well as cases of licensed firms involved in illegal dumping. Reform of the licensing laws has been laid out in the Environment Bill currently making its way through Parliament. A Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) spokesman told the Panorama team ‘We will reform the licensing system for waste carriers to ensure stricter background and competency checks which, in combination with mandatory electronic waste tracking, will increase compliance and make it harder for criminals to operate.’
The OCULi wireless HD PIR camera is now another weapon in the arsenal for councils and other organisations as well as individuals wishing to tackle this offence. OCULi is fitted with a 5MP camera and can be quickly deployed to known fly tipping hotspots.
There are 2 models available, one with a detection range of 15m out and 20m across and the other 40m out and 4m across, perfect for gate entrances on private land. If the PIR is triggered within the detection range the unit will start filming and a 7 second video clip is available to view in seconds on the OCULi portal or free app.
The images are delivered as 15 stills, stitched together at 2 frames per second to achieve the video footage. End users are able to magnify parts of the footage to read a number plate which can then be provided in evidence to Councils for prosecution purposes. Figures demonstrate that with evidence, the success rate for prosecutions is over 97%.
Users can request more footage of an event activation and a horn speaker can be attached to enable a live voice challenge or automatic message to be played on activation. A solar conversion kit makes it viable to live stream images otherwise primary cell batteries can last between 6-9 months with normal usage.