Fly tipping is a scourge on society and comes at a huge cost to local authorities and landowners: we need a coherent and cohesive strategy
Although fly tipping causes great nuisance and inconvenience across the country, there is no cohesive nationwide strategy and this lack of direction exacerbates the problem. In the vast majority of cases, people want to do the right thing, but we need a strategy to support that.
Throwing cartons and bottles next to overfilled and underemptied recycling containers is an offense that could result in a potential prison sentence of 12 months and a fine of up to £50,000 (for convictions in the courts of first case). Individuals and businesses have a duty to ensure that waste is disposed of correctly – but many fail to understand the need to check the credentials of waste disposal services, leading to their waste being dumped illegally and increasingly common criminal dump companies.
Councils need to improve citizen education about effective waste disposal, but they also need to make it easier and ensure services are more consistent.
How much of the £400million annual costs associated with cleaning landfills could be avoided if recycling bins were emptied more frequently or if signage was improved to show people the nearest alternative when bins are full?
Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) are undoubtedly an effective deterrent, but they also penalize people for trying to do the right thing – adopting an intelligence-driven app for dumps is also essential wild on a commercial scale.
Dyl Kurpil, Executive Director, District Enforcement, insists the best way to eradicate fly tipping, especially on a commercial scale, is to improve education and access to waste collection services coherent and integrated.
The on-the-fly dumps are adding huge costs to UK councils when the strain on finances is already intense. Local authorities handled 1.13 million waste dumping incidents in 2020-21, up 16% from the previous year. But the financial burden of fly tipping is also felt by landowners, especially farmers. There has been a 300% increase in illegal dumping in some areas, resulting in damage to land and animals, as well as an unacceptable financial cost, with landowners being responsible for the removal of dumped waste.
Several plans are being discussed to address this issue. The Scottish Countryside Alliance (SCA) has backed proposals for tougher measures to crack down on illegal dumping, including removing legal liability from the person on whose property the waste has been dumped and making the person who generated the waste legally responsible. There is also a call to increase and standardize penalties for illegal dumping.
The lack of consistency is also targeted in the plan to prevent municipalities from charging individuals for the removal of waste such as plasterboard, bath units and bricks. While the government banned such charges in 2015, it is estimated that a third of local authorities still charge for certain types of do-it-yourself waste by applying rules to residents designed for construction waste. Waiving these charges could save individuals up to £10 per individual item, according to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
Inconsistent waste services
These examples highlight the inconsistency of the waste removal service model across the country. Some councils have fully reopened household recycling centers after forced COVID-19 closures; others have retained appointment systems. Hours of operation vary widely from site to site, even within the same local authority. The regularity with which small recycling sites, often located in car parks, are emptied also varies considerably.
Is it any wonder that uninformed citizens leave their bagged rubbish next to full bins – an act which can result in a Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN) of £400? Waste removal contractors are only employed to remove full bins – they have no mandate to remove items left beside containers. The council will then receive complaints from residents about the recycling piles, which will add additional costs to both complaint handling and waste disposal.
These inconsistencies combine to fuel the commercial waste management industry. Few citizens understand the need to verify a waste management license or the chain of custody that must be in place to ensure proper waste disposal. Instead, they rely on the unlicensed “man with a van” to dispose of their waste. Confusion and inconsistency create the perfect opportunity for opportunistic individuals to mislead the public, take their money and dump their trash, resulting in ever-increasing cleanup costs for councils and landowners .
educate the public
Local authorities should facilitate the whole waste disposal process for the public. Education needs to improve, as does accessibility to services, with consistent opening hours and frequently emptied recycling bins. The easier it is for people to access services, preferably free, the less likely they are to depend on unauthorized persons. Essentially, spending more on good quality services will significantly reduce the market for landfill business activities.
Environmental enforcement officers play a key role in improving citizen education about fly tipping, carefully explaining the legal position regarding leaving trash outside of designated bins. But these people also hold vital information about the use of recycling centers that local authorities could use to support waste management strategies and ensure that services reflect citizens’ demands. Routine feedback on the frequency and type of FPNs delivered in specific locations should automatically feed into the waste disposal model.
Should the municipality empty the cardboard bins more frequently in the face of the explosion of online purchases? Is a recycling place used much less than the others? If so, are citizens reported at this location when the others are full? Could it be moved to a place where citizens would be more likely to use it?
A more concerted approach can also allow law enforcement officers to be more proactive. For example, combining rapidly deployed mobile cameras with artificial intelligence (AI) and license plate recognition to identify rollover vehicles in real time. An alarm alerts police officers to an incident, allowing them to get to the scene quickly, improving the speed with which culprits can be identified.
Fines for illegally dumped commercial waste are not capped (in Crown Court) – and can lead to a long prison sentence. Councils are keen to pursue commercial fly tipping, although this can be an expensive option, especially compared to an LBW. Any processes and enforcement systems that can be deployed to quickly identify and punish the culprits will help deter this insidious and opportunistic market.
Creating a cohesive, intelligence-driven waste management strategy is essential. The combination of a strong enforcement model and better access to waste disposal services for citizens should make a noticeable difference in accidental spill levels across the country. Better education, including clarity of application, visibility of service options and times, and elimination of costs to citizens will further encourage individuals to do the right thing, dispose of waste safely. safety and, in doing so, to eradicate this scourge for society and the cost for the local authority.