Thursday, 17 Oct 2019

Keeping Britain Tidy: The Legal Issues Surrounding Fly-Tipping

Fly-tipping is, by definition, illegal waste disposal. The term encompasses any depositing of waste onto land that lacks a proper licence for waste disposal.

Whether the unwanted material is a bin bag, a dead appliance, or a mattress, disposing of waste illegally is a serious problem. It creates a local nuisance and negatively impacts the quality of life for every member of the community. Commercial-scale fly-tipping can become a much more serious issue; unwanted waste in multiple-truckload quantities ends up tipped on all sorts of inappropriate land.

Illegal waste disposal often becomes a public health hazard, as the unwanted waste can include toxic materials, asbestos, and other threats. Fly-tipping can cause permanent, hard-to-fix damage to soil quality and watercourses.

English councils had to address over a million cases of fly-tipping in 2016 and 2017. Cleanup costs for all of these incidents were estimated at more than £58 million.

You should always keep in mind that fly-tipping is a real criminal offence and authorities will not hesitate to prosecute you for it. Courts can choose to impose a range of penalties for fly-tipping, including prison time and serious fines (up to £50,000 for individuals involved in fly-tipping). In large-scale cases, individuals prosecuted for fly-tipping may lose the right to operate any vehicles involved in the offence.

What should I do if someone fly-tips waste on my land?

If you become a victim of fly-tipping, you are unfortunately responsible for all the costs of safely disposing of the waste in question.  You can hire skip bags and dispose of the rubbish yourself or you can hire professional contractors to dispose of the rubbish for you.

If you employ a contractor to dispose of the unwanted waste for you, make sure that they are properly registered as a waste carrier. This is an easy thing to do by calling the general enquiries line (08708 506506) operated by the Environmental Agency.

You should report fly-tipping to your local authority and/or the Environment Agency. While they have no obligation to handle the waste removal themselves, they will be able to provide useful guidance on how you should proceed.

For the future, consider why your land has been targeted for fly-tipping. Is it easily accessible but concealed from view? Take whatever steps you can to make your land less attractive for fly-tipping. Installing security measures designed to discourage fly-tipping is far less costly than cleaning up unwanted waste.

How can I avoid having my own waste fly-tipped?

Bulky Waste (e.g. furniture, appliances, etc.) – your council is not responsible for removing items like this. In many cases, local authorities operate or endorse a bulky waste collection service. Contact your local council to learn more.

Garden Waste – Garden waste collection is typically handled by separate services; some councils provide separate bins for it. You can also compost at home or take your garden waste to your local tip for disposal.

Commerical Waste – Business owners are obliged to contract with registered waste carriers to see that their waste is properly disposed of. If you haul your own waste, remember that you must deposit it at a site licenced for commercial waste. You will need to pay gate fees and landfill tax in order to dump at a licenced commercial tip.

If you are paying for building work or otherwise responsible for a job that is generating commercial waste, you have an obligation to verify that the waste carrier removing the material is properly licenced. You can ask the carrier for their certificate, or contact the Environment Agency at the number listed above to confirm their licence.

Fly-tipping is illegal. Report it!

Reporting fly-tipping will lead to faster rubbish clean-up and may lead to investigation and prosecution. If you witness fly-tipping or an area where it takes place, have the following information handy:

  • Time, place, and date of the incident
  • General description of the waste you saw
  • Description of any people and/or vehicles involved. Note registration numbers if possible.

Your local authority and the Environment Agency both have powers to tackle fly-tipping. There is a consistent protocol in place to assign responsibility for investigating and resolving different sorts of fly-tipping problems.

Small-scale, frequent incidents are typically handled by local authorities, while the Environment Agency steps in to handle larger-scale cases of illegal waste disposal. The Agency also takes the lead in cases where hazardous materials or organised criminals are involved.