Councils dealt with nearly one million reports of fly-tipping in 2020, so there’s no denying more needs to be done to tackle the problem head on. Fly-tipping presents massive economical challenges for councils across the country. They spent £10.9 million on waste clearance last year alone.
As well as improper waste disposal putting pressure on the economy, it presents some complications for the environment too. Not only is it unsightly and expensive to clear up, the chemicals in some waste could potentially contaminate the soil and, depending where it’s left, harm plants, wildlife and locals living in the area.
As one solution, the Local Government Association (LGA) has called for changes to fly-tipping fines.
But what’s going to change?
Will increasing the penalty really stop people fly-tipping?
Here’s what’s been set out:
The current state of fines and sentences fail to match the severity of the offence, according to the LGA.
They hope that increasing fines and sentences will “help offset the huge costs to councils” and make sure people caught fly-tipping never offend again.
But will this alone solve the problem? Probably not.
Currently the sentencing guideline for environmental offences sets out a 12-step process to determine the sentence for a fly-tipping offence. A deliberate fly-tipping offence designated to incur ‘minor’ environmental harm comes with a fine with a starting point of band F, which is 600 percent of weekly earnings. Based on what people in the UK earn on average, this amounts to over £3,000. But from the 2,671 court fines issued in 2019/20, the total value of these was £1,170,000 – an average of £438 per fine according to government statistics.
The changes encourage the use of FPNs (Fixed Penalty Notices) which are quicker and cheaper to administer, and reduce pressure on the courts.
The LGA is also calling for fly-tipping to be looked at by the court as an offence first.
Councils could potentially be exacerbating the problem themselves
The UK is in the grip of a nationwide rubbish collection crisis, as quoted in an article by The Guardian. Last month, it was reported that at least 18 councils delayed their bin collections due to a lack of drivers and virtually all areas of the country were affected.
The delays, which are still affecting garden waste, were caused by a shortage of HGV drivers who are specifically able to operate recycling and refuse lorries. This isn’t a new issue though.
According to Richard Burnett of the Road Haulage Association, it’s an industry problem that’s been brewing for years. Even before COVID-19 and Brexit, the logistics industry had a shortage of 60,000 HGV drivers.
With household waste continuing to pile up in the street, residents are getting fed up of waiting for collections, and have no real plan B for disposing of their waste.
So, how are people getting rid of their rubbish?
In cities like Brighton and Hove, bin bags are piling high on the streets – after 54 refuse and recycling lorry drivers went on a two week long walkout. As it’s explained in an article by The Guardian, the strike comes after disputes with local councils over pay and working conditions – including the removal of drivers from long standing bin rounds.
The first strike was set to come to an end on October 17, but a second has been called to run from October 21 and the council admits it will take weeks to clear the backlog of rubbish once the dispute has been settled.
Until this has happened though, residents are being advised to break up and flatten boxes and cartons and store waste in their homes – or take it to the tip themselves in their cars.
An opportunity arising for scam rubbish collectors
All the issues with legitimate rubbish collections have, as you might expect, created an opportunity for scammers to take advantage of unsuspecting members of the public. More and more people are falling victim to bogus rubbish collections, and it’s costing households hundreds of pounds. Scammers are taking advantage of desperate residents and greatly overcharging them to take away their rubbish, but then dumping it illegally. The biggest problem with this is that if your waste is dumped by an unlicensed third party, you’re still responsible for it and will receive a fly-tipping fine if it can be traced back to you.
But how can you be sure who to trust?
You can check if someone has a valid licence before they take your rubbish away on the Environment Agency website.
How can we protect ourselves against scam waste collections?
Remember, if it’s your waste, it’s your problem.
If your rubbish is found dumped, even if someone else has done it, you’ll be held responsible for the crime.
There’s a few things you can do when using a third party rubbish removal company to make sure they’re legitimate, and avoid receiving a fine.
1. Ask to see trader’s waste carriers registration number
No matter if you find someone through social media, an advert, or even if someone approaches you directly – you need to check that they’re a registered waste carrier.
It’s illegal for them to take your waste if they’re not registered and they could be a rogue trader.
2. Check where your waste is going
Being a registered waste carrier means the person can legally remove your rubbish, but you still need to check what is going to happen with it. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and ask for paperwork that shows where your waste is going.
It’s also important to make sure you make a note of their waste carrier details as well as their vehicle details.
A legitimate waste carrier should not object to you asking these kinds of questions.
Some more modern collection services offer you live tracking so you can not only see when your driver is arriving to pick up your waste, but also track that it’s going to an appropriate dropoff point (like a recycling centre).
3. Don’t leave waste on your driveway or in the street
You should never leave waste like old washing machines or scrap metal out in the street for someone to remove. They may not be a registered waste carrier, and could take the bits they need and illegally dump the rest.
This is one of the problems with relying on a council collection because you’re required to take your household rubbish to a designated drop off point on the day of the pickup, or at the earliest the night before.
4. Never leave items out for others to reuse
You can donate good quality items to your local rescue or charity shop. Or alternatively give the items to someone you know who could make use of them. But you shouldn’t leave them on a public path or highway and hope that someone will take them away.
Doing this could leave you open to a fine.
Fines, enforcement and education have to work together to protect people
Increasing fines and making penalties harsher has the potential to deter people from dumping their waste illegally, providing that the changes are enforced. It isn’t just a case of enforcement and fines though, education is equally as important; all three need to work together to tackle the issue head on.
More must be done to face the problem of unlicensed third party rubbish clearance companies, to stop them scamming desperate households who’re (unknowingly) being taken advantage of.
This means making people aware of things to look out for if they do decide to use a third party company to take their rubbish. Everything and everyone working together will take us one step closer to cleaner communities.
Make sure you use a licenced collection service
With fly-tipping and scam rubbish collection incidents on the rise, it’s more important than ever to make sure you’re being careful by choosing a licenced and reputable rubbish clearance service.
You can be confident that they’ll take your waste away properly and have the majority of it recycled whenever possible.