Fly-tipped waste in field

Calls for government to get tough on waste crime

Fly-tipping incidents have decreased in England, but organisations say figures fail to show full picture
23 February 2023 , Steve Smethurst

Government cites progress but there are calls to take a harder line as HMO’s and businesses without a waste licence are fuelling waste crime – while landowners pay the price

‘Solid progress’ was how Rebecca Pow, Environment Minister portrayed the latest fly-tipping statistics for England, adding that the government is ‘determined to do more’.

Fly-tipping in England last year dropped while enforcement action increased. Defra statistics show that local authorities dealt with 1.09 million fly-tipping incidents, a decrease of 4% from the 1.14 million reported in 2020/21.

Local authorities carried out 507,000 enforcement actions, an increase of 52,000 actions (11%) and the number of fixed penalty notices issued rose by 58% to 91,000. The number of court fines also rose, from 621 to 1,798, with the value of total fines rising from £330,000 to £840,000.

Pow said: “We are awarding councils with grants to tackle fly-tipping, strengthening powers to detect and prosecute waste criminals, and planning to introduce rules to crack down further on these unscrupulous offenders.”

However, Allison Ogden-Newton OBE, Chief Executive at Keep Britain Tidy, described the million-plus fly-tipping incidents as a “tragedy for the environment and communities” and called for “immediate and tough enforcement".

“The UK government’s promises to clamp down on fly-tipping on private land are yet to yield serious results. It seems that criminals simply do not fear prosecution.”

This was echoed by Mark Tufnell, President, Country Land and Business Association (CLA). He said: “These figures fail to reflect the full scale of waste crime, as increasing reports of fly-tipping on private rural land are not included.

“It’s not just the odd piece of litter blotting the landscape, but tonnes of household and commercial waste which can often be hazardous – including asbestos and chemicals.

“The maximum fine for fly-tipping is £50,000 or 12 months in prison, but this is rarely enforced. This means landowners pay on average £1,000 to remove the waste, but in some cases have paid up to £100,000 to clear up other people’s mess or risk facing prosecution themselves.

“The UK government’s promises to clamp down on fly-tipping on private land are yet to yield serious results. It seems that criminals simply do not fear prosecution.”

Zaheer Akbar, spokesperson for the Alum Rock Community Forum, which represents organisations in East Birmingham, urged councils to focus on local businesses. He said: “Fly-tipping is a serious problem for us locally and many businesses are operating without a waste licence. Enforcement teams need to pay each business a visit and check if they have one.

“Many rented properties like HMOs (houses with multiple occupants) are also linked to increased fly-tipping in the area and are poorly managed. Local government need to start offering rewards or even a discount on Council Tax for reporting a fly-tipper.”

Cllr David Renard, environment spokesperson for the Local Government Association said that councils are working tirelessly and are determined to crack down on the problem.

Like others, he argued that penalties fail to match the severity of the offence committed. “We continue to urge the government to review sentencing guidelines for fly-tipping so that offenders are given bigger fines for more serious offences to act as a deterrent

“Manufacturers should also contribute to the costs to councils of clear up, by providing more take-back services so people can hand in sofas, old furniture and mattresses when they buy new ones,” he said.


Image credit: Shutterstock

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