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Fly tipping and it’s effects

Old sofas on road corners, mattresses in hedgerows and electrical items in fields – the problem of fly tipping in the UK has risen by a fifth in the last 12 months, marking the first increase in years.

Fly tipping, or fly dumping, refers to the illegal dumping of waste in areas other than an authorised rubbish dump. It is the illegal deposit of any waste onto land or a site with no licence to accept waste. Unfortunately this is an ongoing problem in the UK, as the statistics below will illustrate.

Fly tipping statistics (2013/14), Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA)

  • A 20% increase in fly tipping over 2012/13 figures, with Local Authorities dealing with 852,000 incidents, two thirds of which were household waste.
  • The most common place for fly tipping is highways (47%), however the last year has seen a 15% increase in tipping on footpaths, bridleways and alleyways.
  • Approximately a third of all incidents consisted of small van loads of waste material.
  • Local authorities estimated cost of clearance of fly tipping at £45.2 million, a 24% increase on 2012/13.

Why is fly tipping a problem?

Fly tipping is illegal; the UK has controls in place that impose a duty to ensure that waste in the UK is properly disposed of. In addition to this only holders of a Waste Management Licence can recover, transport, deposit or dispose of waste and only at officially authorised sites.

Taxes on landfill in the UK has led to illegal waste dumping or fly tipping. As the cost of disposing of household waste increases so does the amount of fly tipping, however the UK government has now made it easier for the public to report it, and as such fines or punishments are in place by the local councils for anyone dumping waste.

It costs an estimated £86-£186 million a year to investigate and clear up, and this cost is charged to the tax payer and private landowners. As well as affecting the environment, areas subjected to repeated fly tipping may suffer declining property prices as well as local business disruption.

How to prevent the problem

A very common reason given by fly tipping offenders when asked the question “why did you choose to fly tip in that specific location” is that there was rubbish there already. By dumping waste on land with waste there already, offenders tend to rationalise their behaviour on the grounds that what they are adding will make very little overall difference.

Fly tipping can be best controlled through partnerships between local authorities, Environment Agency and other enforcement agencies:

  • Local authorities are responsible for clearing waste from public land only.
  • Environment Agency investigates major illegal fly tipping incidents if they occur on public or private land, as well as clearing up waste where there is an immediate risk to the environment and human health.

Prevention case study – Effective CCTV (Barnet, London) Source: DEFRA

CCTV was installed in one of the worst offending areas in London, Barnet, and this case study demonstrates a good example of pros and cons of different levels of CCTV.

Several arterial roads run through Barnet: M1, A1, A1000 and the North Circular Road (A406). This means that a large number of waste carriers often pass through the area on the look-out for accessible sites which can be used for fly tipping with the minimal risk of capture.

Not far from where three of the roads intersected is a council owned industrial area which was frequently found to be tipped on.

A number of surveillance operations were carried out in order to capture the tippers. As operations began, however, the tipping would cease. It seemed someone was keeping any eye on the site. Despite failing to catch anyone in the act, it was noted that the problem appeared to be stopping, so a CCTV camera was installed to keep watching more permanently.

As the fly tippers returned, the CCTV images revealed that the trucks coming on to the site didn’t have valid licence plates, or they were so muddy as to be unreadable. However, since the CCTV camera used was the type that records images onto disc, once the tippers realised the images were not being transmitted remotely, they stole the camera.

Undeterred, Barnet installed a more permanent CCTV camera which relayed images to a control centre. This meant that anyone trying to damage or steal the camera would be caught on film. In addition, such cameras allow operators to catch the tippers ‘in the act’ rather than having to retrospectively view the images once a tip has taken place. Barnet report that large-scale tipping in the area has reduced dramatically following the installation of the camera.

Although the camera cost £35k to install, it is claimed that it effectively paid for itself in a little over two months since it was estimated to cost the Borough around £180k per year to clean up that particular industrial estate before the camera was installed.

What you can do to help

If you discover fly tipped waste, try to work out what the waste is and how much of it is there, make a note of the time of day and date it was dumped. If you witness the offence, make a note of how many people were involved and what they look like, and details of any vehicles involved in the offence including make, colour and registration number if possible.

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