Resource Use

Fly-tipping levels drop by four per cent

Local authorities in England dealt with over 711,000 incidents of fly-tipping in 2012/13, four per cent fewer than the year before, new Defra figures have shown.

The ‘Fly-Tipping Statistics For England, 2012/13’, released on Tuesday (15 October), is based on the returns made to Flycapture, which records the incidents, cost of clearing and enforcement of illegally-deposited waste handled by local authorities in England and the Environment Agency.

According to the figures, between April 2012 and March 2013, English local authorities spent £36.4 million clearing fly-tipping sites in 2012/13, three per cent less than in the financial year 2011/12.

Further, enforcement actions and prosecutions were also down in 2012/13, with local authorities carrying out 425,000 enforcement actions (13 per cent fewer than in 2011/12) – costing £15.2 million – and 2,200 prosecutions (22 per cent fewer than the year before). Almost all of the prosecutions (99 per cent) resulted in a conviction.

Make up of fly-tipped waste

In parallel to the Environment Agency’s ‘2013 Waste Crime Report’, Defra found that the majority of criminal activity (318,000 incidents) occurred on highways, with over 30 per cent being ‘small van load size’. However, the figures show that that incidents of fly-tipping on footpaths, bridleways and back alleyways increased by 10 per cent in 2012/13, and now account for 20 per cent of all reported incidents.

Looking at the make up of waste littered, more than two thirds (67 per cent) of incidents involved ‘household’ waste, with ‘construction, demolition and excavation’ waste (six per cent) and ‘green’ waste (four per cent) following as the most common types of material illegally deposited. However, Defra notes that for some waste types, such as green waste or electrical goods, it was ‘not necessarily possible to tell whether they originated from households or businesses’.

Overall, the figures show a continuing decline in the number of fly-tipping incidents reported, with 2012/13 figures showing a 44 per cent decrease on those in 2007/8.

The report concludes: ‘Fly-tipping is a significant blight on local environments; a source of pollution; a potential danger to public health; a hazard to wildlife and a nuisance. It also undermines legitimate waste businesses where unscrupulous operators undercut those operating within the law.

‘The downward trend in fly-tipping incidents could reflect a number of possible factors. Local authorities may have put more effort into enforcement and/or raising awareness of fly-tipping issues.’ Defra also notes that the Environment Agency has worked with authorities to ‘improve reporting quality and… reduce the possibility of double counting in authority returns’. This can occur when an incident is recorded when a local authority is notified, and then again by a waste management contractor who clears up the fly-tip.

Reducing the administrative burden of reporting

Councillor Mike Jones, Chair of the Local Government Association’s Housing and Environment Board, ‘welcomed’ the news that “councils’ continued efforts have led to another fall in fly-tipping incidents”, but urged government to do more to reduce the amount of red tape surrounding fly-tipping reporting.

He said: “The cost of clearance and prosecutions is high. Given the cuts to local authority budgets, it would be helpful if councils could be freed up to focus their resources on continuing to reduce fly-tipping incidents rather than spending their time reporting to government while mired in expensive prosecutions.

“We think that a new fixed-penalty notice should be established for small-scale fly-tipping, which would enable councils to act quickly to curb the problem and prevent the longwinded and expensive process of taking prosecutions through the courts.

“We’re also asking why councils need to report fly-tipping data monthly when it’s only released by government annually? If the reporting frequency was reduced to once a year it would save councils tens of thousands of pounds.”

Read the ‘Fly-Tipping Statistics For England, 2012/13’.