Web tool launched to catch fly tippers
Rubbish is illegally dumped somewhere in the UK every 35 seconds, according to new figures from Defra revealing the full extent of fly tipping problems.Moreover, according to "Flycapture", a national government database set up in 2004, fly tipping costs local authorities around £100 each minute to clean up, as well as polluting and spoiling local environments.
Environment Minister Elliott Morley said that the information from Flycapture would now enable the government to focus resources on targeting hotspots and identifying illegal dumping trends to prevent future incidents rather than concentrating on expensive clearance.
"Fly tipping is a serious environmental crime that will not be tolerated," Mr Morley stated. "We recognised it was an increasing problem, but now we can see what is being dumped where, how often and how much it is costing authorities to clean up."
"We can now target our resources more effectively, improve our intelligence on the ground, and help track fly tippers both within and between countries as part of our commitment to tackling anti-social behaviour."
Last year, Flycapture helped the Environment Agency (EA) and councils in London catch, confiscate and crush two trucks responsible for at least 27 separate incidents of fly tipping at a number of different sites across the capital, costing council tax payers thousands of pounds in clean up costs.
Chairman of the Local Government Association (LGA) environment board, Cllr David Sparks added that, along with new powers in the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environmental Bill, the database would enable authorities to save large amounts of money currently spent cleaning up illegal dump sites and tackle environmental crime more effectively.
"Preventing these crimes has huge economic, social and environmental benefits," he pointed out. "Councils are already doing their bit to prevent fly-tipping, with 99% offering a bulky item collection service for free or a nominal charge."
"Those who think nothing of illegally dumping their waste should quickly be persuaded by a fixed penalty notice that it is cheaper and easier to ring the council to collect large items or pay an authorised waste carrier to dispose of their rubbish."
According to Defra's figures, almost 250,000 black bags are left somewhere they shouldn't every year, and each one costs around £40 to clear away. Mr Morley pointed out that that was £1m local authorities were wasting on cleaning up after fly tippers when they could be channelling it into more productive services.
"But it's not just the monetary cost," he added. "It's also the environmental damage that discarded rubbish can cause, as well as the loss of community pride."
However, according to the Liberal Democrats, the government is still failing to deliver justice on environmental crime, claiming that less than half of all cases resulted in a fine or custodial sentence in the waste sector, and only 0.6% of offenders receiving fines for landfill pollution incidents.
Their figures also showed that the number of successful prosecutions over the past year had fallen to the lowest amount since 1999.
"The punishment of environmental offences must fit the seriousness of the crimes," shadow environment secretary Norman Baker warned. "Pollution seriously affects the quality of life of thousands of people across Britain. I doubt Ministers would be so lax if they were living near landfill sites or suffering the health impacts of illegal pollution."
"The government must stop polluters getting away with green murder."
By Jane Kettle