Waste away: government cracks down on fly-tippers

The government is cracking down on fly-tippers, the scourge of many of our towns, cities and rural roadsides.

fly tipping
Scales Road Mattress Mountain by Alan Stanton is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
We’ve all seen it, haven’t we? Piles of rubbish, spoil and detritus dumped at the side of the road, a blight on the landscape and a possible health hazard to boot. It’s certainly a big problem. Last year, local authorities dealt with 852,000 incidents of fly-tipping, a 20% increase on the year before. The clearance costs also mount up, reaching an estimated £45.2 million in 2013/4. Waste of money, waste of resources, waste of time, and…

Waste of space

Some people blame the increase in fly tippers on the lack of legal waste sites and strict limits on household rubbish collection. Laws on the correct disposal of waste are also more stringent. But while it’s not always cheap or easy to get rid of your rubbish, is that really an excuse for dumping it on the street?

Rubbish excuse

Household rubbish is top of the fly tipper’s list. White goods, such as fridges and washing machines, are also frequently dumped, along with building rubble and garden rubbish. Fly tippers commonly offload their rubbish at the side of the road, but footpaths, bridleways and back alleys are also favourite spots for the illegal dumpsters.

Tipping point

Now the government has had enough and has granted enforcement officers the power to stop, search and seize vehicles they suspect are involved in fly-tipping. The seizure powers also apply to other waste crimes such as breaches of the waste duty of care, operation of an illegal waste site and carrying controlled waste without authorisation. Dan Rogerson, resource management minister, says: “Fly-tipping blights communities and poses a risk to human health, which is why we are supporting the seizure of vehicles suspected of involvement in this pernicious crime. “The removal of their means to dispose of waste illegally will act as a greater deterrent to persistent offenders.”

Cleaning power

The new powers follow tougher sentencing guidelines on fly-tipping that were introduced last year of up to 12 months in prison or a fine of up to £50,000 – or both. It’s also worth bearing in mind that you can be convicted of a waste crime if you are the registered keeper of a vehicle that is used to fly-tip, even if you were not in the car. You can even be in trouble if the waste is yours, but is dumped by someone else.

Private problem

It usually falls to the local authority to investigate fly tipping, whether it’s on public or private land. However, the local authority will only clear rubbish from public land. So, if someone dumps their waste on your property, you will have to sort out – and pay for – the clean-up yourself. The Environment Agency can tackle waste crime, but is generally called-in for bigger or more serious cases. It will only clear up when there is an immediate risk to the environment and public health. We generate about 177 million tones of waste every year in England alone. That’s a lot of rubbish – and it’s up to all of us to dispose of it responsibly.

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