Beauty spots across Dorset are blighted by the scourge of fly-tipping as cases across the UK spiral out of control. We’ve all seen the sorry sights. Sofas, mattresses, fridges and car tyres dumped in laybys, woods and in farmers’ fields.
These eyesores are left for local councils to clear away, at tax-payers expense, or the cost falls on private landowners, who have to pay out of their own pocket. According to Countryside Alliance, a farmer foots a bill in the region of £800 each time someone thinks it’s fine to leave a cooker with his cows.
David George, a spokesperson for The National Farmers Union (South West) told the digital Blackmore Vale: “This is a source of great irritation to farmers and the fact they have to pay to get rid of it just adds insult to injury. Mainly, it’s people getting rid of waste they may be charged for at the local tip, or that they can’t be bothered to take. We urge people to please dispose of their waste responsibly, especially if they are having a spring clean over the Easter holidays.”
The issue of fly-tipping falls on the shoulders of local councils. Some have reported a 50% increase in fly-tipping since Covid, with official rubbish and recycling centres shut during the first lockdown. Litter campaign charity, Keep Britain Tidy, estimates fly-tipping is costing this country over £58 million a year in clean-up costs. Putting that into local context, Dorset Council had to pick up the tab for clearance and disposal costs to the tune of about £112,000 in 2019/20 with 1,870 incidents of fly-tipping reported. For April to December 2020, the council received 1,356 reported incidences of fly-tipping, costing just over £80,000 to clear away properly.
And bear in mind that thousands of cases go unreported so the picture is even more rubbish – quite literally.
Sadly, it would seem that in many cases people are just too lazy to dispose of their rubbish correctly. James Potten from Dorset Council told us that, frustratingly, a lot of fly-tipping in this county is rubbish that could easily be disposed of for free. “Whilst trade waste, especially building materials is consistently dumped illegally, the majority of fly-tips consist of black bag household waste and other materials that can be taken to a household recycling centre and dropped off free of charge, such as furniture, white goods and garden waste.”
In a recent report by BBC’s Panorama, ’Rubbish Dump Britain’ it was revealed that there is only one prosecution for every 300 fly-tipping incidents. Staggeringly, local authorities dealt with close to one million cases in 2019 and 2020. With council resources already under intense pressure due to cuts, their chances of catching perpetrators, let alone bringing them to justice, are slim.
Allison Ogden-Newton OBE, Chief Executive of Keep Britain Tidy, said: The fact is that this environmental crime is being driven by ‘man with a van’ operators – responsible for a third of all fly-tips – who are conning the public with what appears to be a cheap way of getting rid of their rubbish, but one that leads to illegal disposal and environmental devastation.”
Keep Britain Tidy is calling on the government to make tackling fly-tipping an urgent priority. It wants immediate reform of the waste carrier licensing system – very few checks are carried out at present – and dedicated use of income from the landfill tax. It’s also demanding tougher sentencing in magistrates courts for those found dumping waste illegally. Though this serious crime can warrant jail sentences and huge fines, this rarely happens.
Dorset Council’s James Potten said: “Our Enforcement Team are out every day investigating incidents, and have set up pro-active partnerships with Dorset Police, the DVLA and Litter Free Dorset, as well as working with private landowners, the Environment Agency, Keep Britain Tidy, and various housing associations.
“In 2019/20, we took around 300 enforcement actions related to fly-tipping, including fixed penalty notices and prosecutions. We also have a high profile case going through the courts right now that we hope to be able to report on soon.”
But one man has taken it upon himself to fight fly-tippers. Business man, Martin Montague, is a self-styled waste warrior. He’s founder of the ClearWaste.com app and website. ClearWaste created the first, fully national system for reporting fly-tipping.
Using a brilliant free app, people can easily report fly-tipping anywhere in the UK as it actually happens. Minute by minute, you can see how quickly the UK is becoming a huge skip. This link from ClearWaste shows reports of rubbish dumped across Dorset – it makes disturbing viewing. https://clearwaste.com/flytipping/england/dorset
‘’The rate of increase in reports of fly-tipping is shocking,” says Martin Montague. “Britain is drowning under a sea of illegally dumped rubbish which blights our town, cities and countryside. Clearwaste.com came about because I was absolutely sick to death of seeing fly-tipping everywhere. I really hate the damage it does to our environment and wildlife, not to mention the cost to taxpayers of cleaning it up.”
The app and website links to every local authority in the country, giving councils the location of the rubbish along with details and photographs.
Tackling the problem before it gets to the countryside, ClearWaste.com also helps people get rid of rubbish properly, giving alternatives to dodgy, unlicensed traders on social media. “When people have DIY leftovers, garden waste or rubbish from a clear-out, they often ask for recommendations on social media but they shouldn’t just hand their unwanted stuff to someone with a van who offers to remove it for a bit of cash,” said Mr Montague.
Their website features responsible waste removal companies with a new price comparison scheme that protects and saves the public money. So confident are they of their trusted traders, ClearWaste.com guarantees to strike the trader off as well as to cover any additional costs or fines up to value of £1000 if waste is illegally disposed.
Martin Montague explained: “There is clearly an increasing demand for legal waste removal so we’re now helping to link consumers with trustworthy, government-registered waste removal businesses to avoid fly-tippers. Our website makes it simple to find honest, reliable, skip-hire and grab bag firms – all backed by our £1000 no fly-tipping guarantee. It’s all about making it easier for people to do the right thing.”
This real-life womble also goes up and down the country investigating fly-tipping incidents for clues of the perpetrators. He uses drones and night-vision equipment in his quest to make them answer for their actions. He names and shames them across social media. ClearWaste.com is also lobbying the government to increase fines and custodial sentences for those who continue to flout the law.
The ClearWaste.com app is available free from Apple and Google Play app stores:
The good news is councils have new and greater powers to tackle fly-tipping but as to whether they have the resources to make this happen is another matter. It can cost around £2k to gather evidence and bring someone to court who can receive a fine under £200.
James Potten advised: “Everyone needs to understand their personal liability when it comes to their waste, which is their legal responsibility until it is correctly disposed of in the right place.
“If you cannot get to a recycling centre and you hand your waste to someone – such as an unlicensed ‘man in a van’ found on social media – who then fly-tips it, you also risk prosecution and a criminal record. Please make sure you only use a reputable waste carrier when handing rubbish to someone else.
‘’Dorset is a beautiful place to live but fly-tipping is a blight on our county, a drain on taxpayers’ money and we all need to work together to tackle it. We will always pursue all avenues to hold offenders to account, so please keep reporting fly-tips to us when you spot them and check out www.dorsetcouncil.gov.uk/tip-off for more information on how to make sure you are covered when handing waste to someone else.”
Dorset Police’s Inspector Darren Stanton, part of the Dorset police Rural Crime Team, also advised: “Whilst fly-tipping is not a police matter, a fly tip in progress can be called in on 999 so that we can catch the offenders in the act.”
FLY-TIPPING – how to report it
If you report fly-tipping, the rubbish can be removed and the crime can be investigated. If you see someone fly-tipping, or you want to report an area where fly-tipping has taken place, take note of the following:
Date, time and place of the incident
What the waste looks like and how much there is
Descriptions of any person and/or vehicles involved along with the registration number
As fly-tippers are doing something illegal, they don’t want to be caught. Don’t approach them or put your own safety at risk. Report fly-tipping or illegal waste dumping – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
If the rubbish is on your own land, it is your responsibility to report it and to dispose of it correctly. Report the incident to your local authority or the Environment Agency. Although they have no obligation to remove the waste, they may be able to provide guidance on the best way to deal with it.
Uncontrolled illegal waste disposal can be hazardous to the public, especially if it contains toxic material or asbestos. There could be risk of damage to watercourses and soil quality from the waste.
Reports to the Environment Agency can be made using their national hotline number 0800 807 060.
By: Tracie Beardsley