The true cost of fly tipping...

You have only to look at the waste tossed from cars at the sides of roads to know that there are many who could respond affirmatively to the sign on environmental health vehicles asking “Are you a tosser?”

Fly tipping, or the more large scale illegal dumping of rubbish is without doubt, a growing problem. On public land a local authority has the onerous and unenviable duty to clear up after these pests. The costs to taxpayer in 2016/17 was £58 million. In 2018/19 there were over a million incidents of fly tipping and of these just over 21,000 involved tipper lorries. There were also 3,255 recorded incidents of asbestos being dumped.

There is no such provision for local authority clear ups in respect of land that is privately owned. It is a costly and time-consuming exercise. In 2019, the government indicated that it will not change the law having heard representations that the waste disposal fees now levied across the country had increased the incidence of fly tipping. In South Wales, the problem was so bad as to force landowners to bring a private prosecution.

The impact on the environment is high and the expense to individuals and insurers is huge.  In November 2018, the Government commissioned an independent review into serious and organised crime in the waste sector. It stated:

“Organised fly-tipping can accumulate into serious crime. Criminals advertise ‘waste clearing services’ to local households and businesses, but the waste they are paid to remove is dumped at illegal sites, which are usually situated on public or private land and accessed using force, threats, intimidation and violence. It can cost anywhere from £10,000 to £500,000 to clear a single site, and criminals often return once a site has been cleared, repeating the cycle.”

With that in mind the prospect of taking action against those who dispose of waste illegally is becoming increasingly attractive.

Fly tipping is a criminal offence. It is entirely possible for a private landlord or their insurer to bring a prosecution against those responsible. The crime is punishable by a fine of up to £50,000 or 12 months imprisonment if convicted in a Magistrates’ Court. The offence can attract an unlimited fine and up to five years imprisonment if heard in Crown Court. Vehicles that have been used to commit the offences can also be seized. In theory, the Proceeds of Crime Act could be invoked to recover assets to meet compensation awards.

A private prosecution for these offences is sometimes the only way to seek recompense for these costs and to stop the inevitable cycle of cleaning and dumping. The sentencing exercise conducted by the Court could include an order that the defendant pay costs or be paid out of central funds. It might also result in a compensation order being made against the defendant if there is evidence of a criminal lifestyle being supported by these activities.

Our advice is you do not need to put up with it. Rubbish can often reveal clues about the “tosser”, dumper or fly tipper. Investing some time in making an example of people may well be a wise investment and tip the scales against the fly tipper.

Our content explained

Every piece of content we create is correct on the date it’s published but please don’t rely on it as legal advice. If you’d like to speak to us about your own legal requirements, please contact one of our expert lawyers.

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