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Fly-tipping clear-up cost hits almost £50m as incidents rise

Published 20/10/2015

The costs of clearing up illegally dumped waste, two thirds of which was household rubbish, in places such as streets, alleyways and council land was nearly £50 million
The costs of clearing up illegally dumped waste, two thirds of which was household rubbish, in places such as streets, alleyways and council land was nearly £50 million

The problem of fly-tipping across England has worsened for the second year in a row, costing taxpayers almost £50 million to clean up, official figures show.

The number of incidents rose 5.6% in 2014/2015 on the previous year, with local authorities forced to deal with 900,000 incidents, compared with 852,000 in 2013/2014.

The costs of clearing up illegally dumped waste, two thirds of which was household rubbish, in places such as streets, alleyways and council land was nearly £50 million, a rise of almost £5 million on the year before.

It is the second rise in fly-tipping incidents in as many years, after years of the problem declining.

The Environment Department, which collects the data from councils, said the rise could reflect improvements in gathering information on flytipping as well as a genuine increase in incidents.

Almost half of all fly-tipping (48%) involved rubbish dumped on highways, while 28% of the illegal waste dumping took place on footpaths, bridleways and back alleyways.

Nearly a third of incidents consisted of a "van load" of illegal waste, and 30% involved a car boot's worth of dumped rubbish, the statistics show.

And it was revealed that local councils carried out almost 515,000 enforcement actions against fly-tippers, costing an estimated £17.6 million, a £300,000 increase on the previous year.

Fly-tipping in public areas is only part of the problem, with private landowners also facing a huge bill to clear up waste illegally dumped on their land.

Nature charity the Woodland Trust said its costs to clear up fly-tipping had risen again this year, to an estimated £27,982 in 2015, compared to £22,850 in 2013 and £24,427 in 2014.

The charity, which owns and manages more than 1,000 woods across the UK, said it had recorded 112 fly-tipping incidents on its land so far this year.

Some of the waste they have found has been very unusual, including at Gorse Covert Mounds, Cheshire, where waste from a cannabis farm was found just days after volunteers had cleared up other fly-tipped rubbish.

At Scroggs wood in Cumbria, slurry and milk waste have polluted a stream, while at Nidd Gorge in North Yorkshire, a dead deer was left in a car park.

In total the Woodland Trust said the cost of clearing up litter and fly-tipping had cost it £767,707 since 2010.

Norman Starks, Woodland Trust UK operations director, said: "Fly-tipping is an illegal activity that currently costs us tens of thousands of pounds each year to clear up.

"This means that a collection of mindless individuals are preventing us from caring for and improving our native woods for the benefit of local communities and wildlife."

The statistics from the Environment Department (Defra) show that London councils dominate the table for the highest number of incidents of fly-tipping.

Newham recorded more than 70,000 incidents in 2014/2015, while Enfield had more than 50,000 cases, and Haringey and Southwark both had more than 25,000 incidents.

In total, eight out of the 10 councils with the highest number of fly-tipping incidents were in London, along with Manchester City Council and Liverpool City Council. At the other end of the table the Isles of Scilly had no recorded fly-tips.

Newham put its high level of recorded fly-tips down to state-of-the-art technology in its waste collection vehicle cabs, which it said enabled staff to record every incident easily and accurately, and to multiple street cleansing rounds every day.

The council also said: "To combat the problem we have carried out educational visits from officers to businesses and residents, targeted on problem areas highlighted by our data, to raise the profile of legitimate methods of waste disposal in the borough.

"In addition we gather intelligence from fly-tips in order to take robust enforcement action against those that flout the law. D uring 2014/15 Newham Council issued 1,955 fixed penalty notices and prosecuted 318 people for littering and fly-tipping offences.

"It is hoped this combined approach will begin to drive down the number of fly-tips that we see in the future."

A Defra spokesman said: "Fly-tipping blights communities and is a health risk, so tackling this issue is a priority for the Government.

"We want everyone to enjoy a cleaner, healthier country. New powers will be granted to local authorities to fine fly-tippers and will be another tool in the battle against illegal dumping.

"Increased use of technology is also helping, with more councils now encouraging the public to use apps and online platforms to quickly and easily report this crime so authorities can take action."

Defra will introduce fines known as fixed penalty notices for small-scale fly-tipping from spring 2016, to provide councils with an alternative to prosecutions where it is appropriate.

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