While tip charges at recycling centres increase, so does the number of people resorting to less-than-legal means to dispose of their waste. Fly tipping is more than littering. Offenders typically carry large quantities of waste in a vehicle and inconspicuously deposit it where it doesn’t belong — usually by the side of a highway.
In April of this year, Cherwell District Council in the UK investigated a fly tipping incident near Banbury, where more than 50 tyres were found dumped in the middle of a field. The perpetrators risked a £5,000 fine to avoid the cost of legally dumping the tyres at a recycling centre. With the new fee increase, the cost to dispose of 50 tyres would have been £250.
Fly tipping does nothing to beautify the environment, to be sure; it also carries a potential health hazard for people, farm animals and wildlife. Local authorities are responsible to clean up all fly tipping incidents larger than a bin bag and smaller than 20 tonnes. Large-scale incidents or illegal disposal of toxic waste must be reported to the Environment Agency for clean-up.
The Department for Environmental Food & Rural Affairs released statistics this year reporting a steady increase in fly tipping incidents since the 2012/13 year. However, this increase may reflect increased vigilance in reporting incidents rather than an actual increase in crime. There are many dangers of fly-tipping to consider, not just environmental but also the risks to the culprits who do not utilize their local recycling centres.
Under Environmental Protection Act 1990, it is a crime to knowingly witness fly tipping and allow it to occur. Fortunately, the Internet makes it easier than ever to report a crime. Most local council websites feature a fly tipping report form, where witnesses can report the location, type of waste and time of the incident.
Investigation and Prosecution
Most reported major fly tipping incidents result in investigation according to data collated by Ecological Communities – a non-profit green-led environmental monitoring organisation. Out of 936 thousand total reported incidents in the 2015/16 year, 315 thousand fly tipping investigations were conducted. In the same year, local councils convicted 98% of prosecuted fly-tippers. The majority of fly tipping convictions result in fines. £677 thousand total fines were issued last year. Fines are a huge deterrent to fly tippers — recycling centre fees seem paltry in comparison.
In the case of smaller incidents when a full investigation and prosecution is not warranted, local authorities issue warning letters to inform fly-tippers of the high fines for illegal waste disposal. Last year, local authorities mailed out 70 thousand such letters.
Anti Fly Tipping Campaigns
Some local councils have taken to warning against fly tipping with informative posters and leaflets. Suffolk’s Tip-Off campaign features bright yellow posters with hazard lines that read: “WARNING: You will be fined for fly-tipping; This area is monitored. CCTV may be in use.”