Fly tipping costs taxpayer £1m every week

The cost of clearing up after fly tippers is approaching £1 million a week in the UK with a batch of waste being illegally dumped every 35 seconds but new powers will mean those caught dumping waste will have to pay for the job themselves.

Figures published by Defra on Tuesday, October 18 show the true cost of tackling the tippers, but were released to coincide with the granting of new powers to those who have to deal with the mess.

Under the widely publicised Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act local authorities and the Environment Agency can now recover these costs from the offenders.

Councils can now also remove vehicles abandoned in the streets immediately.

Announcing the latest measures, alongside the data on the scale of the problem from the national Flycapture database the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Margaret Beckett, said:

“Around one million incidents of fly-tipping were recorded on Flycapture last year, costing local authorities more than £44 million to clear up.

“That’s £44 million of council taxpayers’ money that could be spent improving other council services.

“But from today, offenders themselves will foot the bill.

“Local authorities and the Environment Agency will now be able to make the polluters pay for the mess they have made, as well as the costs of tracking down the culprits.

In June, Defra announced the first raft of measures in the Act, which included fines of up to £50,000 and five years in prison for those found guilty of fly-tipping.

Environment Agency chief executive, Barbara Young, welcomed the latest powers to help catch the waste cheats.

“Fly-tipping is the work of those with no regard for public health or the environment,” she said.

“But with the help of these new powers we will be able to work more closely than ever with the local authorities and really take the fight to these waste cheats.

“The message is clear: if you fly-tip, we are coming after you.”

Though not all fly-tips are recorded – the real cost of the problem could therefore be well over £100m – all local authorities, as well as the Environment Agency, have now begun to add information to Flycapture.

This will be used to focus their efforts on enforcing against fly-tipping and preventing future incidents, rather than concentrating on expensive clearance.

The latest figures show a spiralling problem with rubbish dumped in towns.

As well as adding to deprivation in some areas, and breeding other forms of street crime, the cost to local authorities of cleaning up such vast quantities of fly-tipped rubbish outside of their scheduled collections, is astronomical.

“Fly-tipping has long been seen as a blight on the countryside, with everything from bags of rubbish, to sofas, to hundreds of tonnes of building waste having been selfishly dumped in a variety of beauty spots,” said Mrs Beckett.

“However, it’s also clearly a huge problem in inner cities and towns.

“Thousands of tonnes worth of rubbish are left in the streets every year, leaving many urban areas looking dirty and neglected. If we want to improve the local environment in these areas, this irresponsible behaviour cannot continue.

“In April next year we will be introducing on-the-spot fines to ensure we combat the smaller, but equally problematic, fly-tips.

“Almost all local authorities have a variety of collection services in place, so there really is no excuse for discarding black sacks and other rubbish in the street.”

The Environment Agency is now concentrating its resources towards the larger and more serious types of waste dumping whilst there are clear arrangements for local councils to build their capacity to investigate and enforce against waste and fly-tipping.

Cllr David Sparks, chairman of the Local Government Association’s environment board said: “Fly-tipping is a huge problem for councils and residents alike. It is essentially a health hazard as well as blight on our environmental landscape.

“These figures are a testament to the fact that councils are cracking down on those that damage the environment by contributing to the national fly tipping strategy and by submitting their data for the fly capturing database.

“We can only but reap from the benefits of stronger legislation and shared intelligence on this issue as prevention will result in a better quality of life for our communities with councils utilising their powers to tackle offenders.”

By Sam Bond

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