The true cost of fly-tipping

Picture courtesy of Alan Stanton

Your community is almost certainly the victim of a crime that is sadly commonplace and so brazen that it often happens in plain sight – a toxic mix of fly-tipping, graffiti and flyposting. From the selfish individual who thoughtlessly dumps their old fridge to the unlicensed carriers who dump waste by the lorryload, the offenders might want to believe that these are “victimless” crimes.  But we all have to pay to clean up their anti-social mess.

In fact, fly-tipping (illegal disposal of household, industrial, commercial or other ‘controlled’ waste without a waste management licence) is a criminal offence.  It attracts massive fines and can lead to imprisonment for repeat offenders.  Lower down the scale, you are committing an offence if you don’t properly dispose of rubble, garden waste, old furniture or even leave a bag of rubbish next to your waste bin.

In 2016, the Environment Minister, introducing new fixed penalties for fly-tipping, said “It’s beyond me that anyone feels it’s acceptable to simply dump their waste by the road – whether in our cities or our countryside. The new fixed penalty notices will provide local authorities with another tool to crack down on the selfish individuals who blight our neighbourhoods and ruin our beautiful landscape”.

But despite community censure and stiff penalties,  fly-tipping increased by 4% over the previous year in 2015/2016 according to Defra.  Local  authorities reported around 936,000 cases of fly-tipping in England and around 67% of those – nearly 628,000 incidents – were household waste.

The clearance of this fly-tipping is estimated to have cost local authorities in England nearly £50 million.  The annual cost to local authorities in Wales is nearly £2 million.  The cost of clearing fly-tipping on private land is estimated at anywhere from £50 – £150 million a year.

In the same period, local authorities carried out nearly 494,000 enforcement actions at an estimated cost of £16.9 million. Enforcement actions in both years included investigations, warning letters, inspections and statutory notices.

See: http://researchbriefings.files.parliament.uk/documents/SN05672/SN05672.pdf

Whilst the government believes that the rise may be down to an increase in reporting by residents, critics attribute it to newly introduced charges for household waste collection and garden waste and others to households not having their rubbish collected regularly.

Whether it’s the chicken or the egg that came first, the fact is that cuts in local government budgets mean that there is a shortfall.  There is heavy demand for services in other areas such as adult social care and housing, leaving councils to find new ways to combat the problem yet maintain their existing waste and recycling service levels with less funding.

Informing the public and gaining their support is an important route to staying on top of envirocrime.  Ealing Council is the third largest London Borough in terms of population terms and, even before the introduction of our Agile@HOME app, had already achieved its 2018 50% recycling rate a year ahead.   The app gives residents an easy-to-use guide to what can and cannot be recycled, their nearest recycling points and any disruptions to their service so there’s no excuse for leaving bags out on the street.   By substituting SMS text messages with mobile phone notifications, Agile@HOME expands the council’s ability to communicate with residents whilst keeping costs down.

Ealing has also been targeting fly-tipping via their Enforcements service and residents, resulting in 4,262 Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs).   Whilst their enforcement team has made a positive impact evidenced by a significant decrease in fly-tips over the last year, the council is still dealing with reports of 800 incidents a month.  That means a significant additional spend with the outsourced waste collection service called in to clear up. See: http://ealingnewsextra.co.uk/features/fly-tip/

Using Agile’s Waste Management system, Ealing can now identify duplicate fly-tipping reports at source and therefore reduce costs for ad-hoc services such as fly-tip removal.

It’s the flexibility of maintaining an in-house “owned” contract management system that has enabled Ealing to identify associated, potential annual savings in excess of £70,000 and to implement a solution to achieve them.

With new features soon to be implemented, the council will be able to record and report on fly-tips from incident report all the way through to prosecution in the courts.

Nationally, opinion seems divided on whether we’ve yet to reach “peak fly-tipping” but with councils’ budget shortfalls a continuing challenge, the application of cost-effective technology will continue to play a key supporting role in turning the envirocrime tide.

And in the meantime, we can all do our bit – here’s how:

  • If you witness fly-tipping or come across illegal dumping, report it to your council
  • If your council subscribes to Agile@HOME’s “Report an Incident”, you can use the app to let them know
  • Be aware of what you can recycle – Agile@HOME gives you information about larger items and hazardous substances as well as standard domestic waste
  • Ask any tradesperson working on your home how they will dispose of the waste created
  • Check that they either licensed themselves or will use a licensed carrier – you can do that here: https://environment.data.gov.uk/public-register/view/index
  • If you’re a business, make sure you have a commercial waste licence
  • If you own an HMO, make sure that any property clearance is compliant
  • Use your local council’s bulky waste collection service
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