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.
The graph below (Emu Analytics) outlines areas of the UK with the most incidents per 1000 people.
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 £400. 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. There is a free check service on the gov.uk website or you can call the Environmental Agency on 08708 506506.
In 2019/20 councils in England issued 75,400 on the spot penalties for fly-tipping offences and this is set to rise. In addition, 43,000 warning letters were sent to households in the same period. The estimated cost to councils of clearing up this waste was over £58 million last year. There were 976,000 fly-tipping incidents, an increase of 2% reported in 2018/19. The increase in household waste being fly-tipped in 2019/20 was over 7%. 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 Emu Analytics), the majority of fly-tipping incidents occurred next to a highway and involved household waste – this represents an increase of 6% on the previous year.
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 not an easy answer. However, the Keep Britain Tidy organisation advocates enforcement, education and better recycling facilities as key to combating 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 HD camera and can be quickly deployed to known fly-tipping hotspots.
If the PIR is triggered from up to 15m away the unit will start filming and a 7-second video clip is available to view within 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 for example. Users can also request more footage of an event activation. A solar conversion kit makes it viable to live stream images and manually arm or disarm a site, overriding the automatic arming schedule.
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