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Government statistics show 2 per cent rise in fly-tipping

The UK Government’s latest fly-tipping statistics for England has revealed that local authorities dealt with almost one million (976,000) fly-tipping incidents from April 2019 to March 2020.

The new figures reveal an increase of 2 per cent from the 957,000 reported in 2018/19.

Fly-tipping waste by the side of the roadFly-tipping is defined as the illegal deposit of waste on land that can result in damaging impacts on public health, wildlife and pollution.

Just under two-thirds (65 per cent) of fly-tips involved household waste. Incidents that included household waste totalled 632,000 in 2019/20, up by 7 per cent from the 588,000 recorded in 2018/19.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) standard guidance to local authorities is to report on all incidents, including those reported by both staff and customers.

However, Defra has reported that only 87 per cent of local authorities were reporting incidents, with several councils not reporting all incidents or making changes to their basis of reporting.

Local authorities implemented 474,000 enforcement actions with 75,400 fixed penalty notices in 2019/20, which was 5 per cent fewer enforcement actions than the 501,000 in the previous year.

Fly-tipping most commonly occurs on highways (pavements and roads) which made up over two-fifths (43 per cent) of total incidents in 2019/20.

London was reported as being the biggest offender (the highest average number of incidents per 1,000 people at 40), while the South West had the lowest, with 9 incidents per 1,000 people.

The reporting period only included one week that was impacted by a national Covid-19 lockdown, so Defra cannot yet ascertain how fly-tipping has been affected by the pandemic.

However, a survey from The Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport (ADEPT) reported in April last year that 58 per cent of councils saw an increase in tonnages of collected fly-tipped waste.

Allison Ogden-Newton, Chief Executive of Keep Britain Tidy, responded to the latest statistics: “The fact that more than a third of all fly-tips (34 per cent) are small-van size shows that this environmental crime is being driven by ‘man with a van’ operators who are conning the public with what appears to be a cheap way of getting rid of their rubbish, but one that leads to illegal disposal and environmental devastation.

“Tragically, some businesses that hold a waste carrier licence are breaking the law and fly-tipping the rubbish that households pay them to remove.

“This must stop! We believe the only way to prevent further law-breaking is to fundamentally reform the system.

“We need tests and hurdles to ensure waste carriers are legitimate and accountable. Licences should be difficult to get, thoroughly checked and essential to carry out door-to-door waste collection.

“Local authorities should get income from the landfill tax which, as things stand, they pay but don’t get back. This money would provide investment into a system that is broken, the red flag for this crisis is fly-tipped rubbish devastating communities everywhere.”

Head of Regulation at the Environmental Services Association (ESA), Sam Corp, said: “Both these latest statistics, and the recent BBC Panorama investigation, once again highlight the need for us all to be aware of our legal duty of care when having our waste collected by a third party – whether this is hiring a bin, a skip or a “man in a van” – to stop waste falling into the wrong hands.

“However, as the ESA first flagged back in our 2015 research ‘Britain’s Dirty Secret’ and 2017 in ‘Rethinking Waste Crime’, there are failings in the waste carriers’ registration system which unfortunately make it all too easy for criminal operators to appear legitimate.

“ESA recognises that Defra has been working to reform the system, to include more rigorous front end checks, competency requirement and mandatory electronic waste tracking, but we are keen to see quicker progress and more resources allocated to the Environment Agency in particular.”

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