Changing nature of fly-tipping

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Country Land and Business Association (CLA) President Tim Breitmeyer on the rise of criminal scale fly-tipping.

Those working in the countryside will be all too aware of anti-social behaviour such as fly-tipping. In the last year of recorded statistics there were more than one million reported incidents across the country. Affecting nearly two-thirds of landowners every year, it’s a crime which has a huge detrimental impact across rural communities.

Image: CLA
Image: CLA

Our members are tired of not only clearing up other people’s rubbish, but paying for the privilege of doing so. Estimates suggest it costs on average £1,000 to clean up each incident. With many farmers suffering multiple and repeated incidents this can affect the bottom line. However, more than that, in a job where long hours are the norm, adds an additional unnecessary stress and workload.

Over the years at the CLA we have supported our members and rural communities. Our regional offices have spearheaded local campaigns while at a national level we’ve raised the issue through the media. Local authorities, MPs from all parties and rural police forces have also played their part in these campaigns and sentences have been toughened. However, this collective action clearly hasn’t been enough – last year the total number of incidents were broadly static, down 1% year-on-year.

So despite this action why are fly-tipping figures stubbornly holding? To my mind the ill-thought through introduction of charges to remove waste at a council level has cancelled any gains which could have been made.

Image: CLA
Image: CLA

The total cost of clean-up for fly-tipping is estimated to be between £86 million and £186 million a year with most of this falling on the shoulders of landowners and farmers. Local authorities are estimated to have only spent £12.2 million on clean-up over the same period. It’s probably still too early to see how much they are raising from fees for the disposal of waste, but I would argue that this figure will pale in comparison to the total cost to society for clean-up.

In response to the introduction of fees, we’re seeing the emergence of organised criminal fly-tipping activity. One of the most high-profile recent prosecutions was over three fly-tippers who deposited 40 individual van loads on a single site near Havant in Hampshire. All of them were paid by businesses and members of the public to disposal of rubbish legally, but the waste was instead dumped at this site. The total clean-up cost for the mess was £100,000. The most recent figures show that multi-load fly-tipping incidents of this nature were up 43% year-on-year.

Many will hold the traditional view that fly-tipping is predominately small scale and opportunistic, but in my opinion we’re in fact seeing the opposite emerge. It’s vital that rural police forces recognise the changing nature of this crime and respond accordingly. This is now organised, repeated and on a large scale. I hope that next year’s Independent Police Commissioner elections will see rural crime rise up the policing agenda, with discussions around the changing nature of fly-tipping at its core.

Image: CLA
Image: CLA

However, we should not lay all the blame at the police’s door. More important is ensuring there is a broad coalition of rural stakeholders backing a common sense approach towards waste. We need to pressurise local authorities to think in a joined up manner – increasing fees at local rubbish tips and recycling centres will only impact on fly-tipping levels locally and the costs associated for its clean-up.

Finally, we would like to see some changes to the law. At the moment landowners are legally liable when waste is fly-tipped on their land which hinders clean-up and ensures the true levels of the crime remains under-reported. This should also be coupled with financial and logistical support for victims to clean up waste which, after all, has nothing to do with them.

Like other forms of rural crime, fly-tipping is a complex problem with no silver bullet. Local authorities, politicians and police forces all like to talk tough on this issue, but until these words are matched with a common sensical and joined up approach on waste, we’re likely to continue to face an uphill struggle.

The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) which represents around 30,000 rural businesses across England and Wales. Find out more at

First published in CJS Focus on Countryside Management in association with the Countryside Management Association on 23 September 2019

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