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Fly-tipping continues to rise as councils spend £50m clearing dumps

Councils reveal 10 worst excuses for fly-tipping
Local authorities in England spent £49.8 million clearing up illegally dumped waste in 2015/16, as the number of recorded cases of fly-tipping continued its recent rise, according to statistics released today (2 March) by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra).

English local authorities dealt with a total of 936,000 fly-tipping incidents in 2015/16 an increase of 4.0 per cent from 2014/15. Over two-thirds of those cases involved household waste.

Defra estimates that the cost of clearance for fly-tipping to councils across England reached £49.8 million in 2015/16, though this does account for a relatively slight (£143,000) drop from 2014/15. Councils also spent £16.9 million pursuing 494,000 enforcement actions over the year.

The Defra figures cover data from 301 of the 326 English local authorities, and the department warns that ‘due to a higher level of estimation’ made for missing authority data for 2015/16 ‘some caution is needed in the interpretation of the trends’.

Recorded fly-tipping incidents had been on a steady decline between 2007 and 2013. In that period the number had dropped by 45 per cent from 1,284,000 to 711,000 cases a year, but a huge 20 per cent increase in 2013/14 was followed by 5.6 and 4.0 per cent rises last year and this year respectively.

In 2015/16, 88 local authorities reported a decrease in fly-tips since 2012/13, though 226 showed an increase and two local authorities have shown no change.

Fly-tipping continues to rise as councils spend £50m clearing dumps
Number of fly-tipping incidents in England, 2007/08 to 2015/16 (in thousands)
Defra says that the recent rise, rather than representing an increase in illegal dumping, could be attributed to the fact that more and more local authorities are introducing new technologies, such as online reporting and electronic applications, as well increased training for staff for dealing with fly-tipping cases.

Commenting on the statistics, Local Government Association (LGA) Environment spokesperson Cllr Judith Blake said: “At a time when social care faces a funding gap of at least £2.6 billion by 2020 and councils’ overall funding shortfall is predicted to reach £5.8 billion within three years, local authorities are having to spend a vast amount each year on tackling litter and fly-tipping. This is money that would be better spent on vital front line services. Litter and fly-tipping is environmental vandalism – it’s unpleasant, unnecessary and unacceptable.

Where and what

The most common place for fly-tipping to occur was on highways, which accounted for 50 per cent of total incidents in 2015/16, a 7.9 per cent increase on 2014/15.

Meanwhile, incidents of fly-tipping on footpaths and bridleways, which accounted for 16 per cent of all incidents, increased by 8.0 per cent in 2015/16 whilst those in back alleyways decreased by 6.7 per cent compared to 2014/15.

Since 2007/08 household waste is the only material whose presence in fly-tips has consistently increased, and in 2015/16 it accounted for 67 per cent of all incidents. The majority of this consisted of what Defra categorises as ‘Household Waste (Other)’, meaning material from house or shed clearances, old furniture carpets and the waste from small-scale DIY – so not waste that could be routinely included in kerbside waste and recycling collections.

Fly-tipping continues to rise as councils spend £50m clearing dumps
Breakdown of most common fly-tipping waste types: Household and commercial waste in England, 2007/08 to 2015/16
The amount of white goods like fridges and freezers has seen a huge jump in the past few years, representing five per cent of all incidents in 2015/16 compared to two per cent in 2012/13.

A third of all incidents consisted of a quantity of material considered equivalent to a ‘small van load’, suggesting that the rise of what the LGA calls the ‘man with a van’ phenomenon, which involves unpermitted cold callers offering to dispose of bulky households waste for cash and then illegally dumping them, is having a significant effect on the national results.

Need for a ‘streamlined system that helps councils’

The data included in this release covers the period between April 2015 and March 2016. In May last year, local authorities were given the power to impose immediate fixed-penalty notices of up to £400, and the Local Government Association (LGA) says that councils are taking an increasingly ‘no-nonsense approach’ to the issue.

Last year, ‘investigation actions’ were the most common action taken by local authorities against fly-tippers (315,000), compared to 36,000 fixed-penalty notices. The majority of prosecutions ended with fines, which recouped £677,000 for councils, but it is likely that the new powers will increase the amount of fines and the money recouped from fly-tipping action.

Blake said: “The government has responded to our call for councils to be able to apply fixed-penalty notices for small-scale flytipping – and this is a big step in the right direction. We need a new streamlined system that helps councils – one that is nimble, flexible and effective. Not only does fly-tipping create an eyesore for residents, it is also a serious public health risk, creating pollution and attracting rats and other vermin.

“There are a number of additional changes that would help tackle littering and fly-tipping, including sharing more of the responsibility with product producers. This includes manufacturers providing more take-back services so people can hand in old furniture and mattresses when they buy new ones.”

Gareth Lloyd-Jones, Managing Director of waste disposal company HIPPO, added: “There’s no denying that fly-tipping is a real issue right now, not just in a few counties, but across the entire UK. It’s time to for us all to stand up and be part of the solution, not the problem.”

Defra’s statistics on reported fly-tipping in 2015/16 can be found on the department’s website.

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