Tackle fly tipping at source, councils told

Small scale fly tipping is costing the country millions every month, according to data released by Defra this week, and councils are being urged to do more to nip the problem in the bud rather than pick up the tab for expensive clear-up operations.

Decaying sofas and mattresses, broken TVs and piles of ripped bins bags are the scourge of many a British street and the cost of dealing with the problem has now outstripped that of tackling the organised gangs that fly tip for profit on a larger scale.

According to research by the Jill Dando Institute of Crime Science domestic dumping often takes place simply because the public is ignorant of available council services and budgets could be better spent on information campaigns and additional services than tidying up after the event.

Fly tipping is costing councils more than £2.5m per month and at the moment, 81% of council costs are going on clearing up the mess, with just 7% spent on prevention and 12% on enforcement.

Using the institute’s research as a basis for its advice, Defra has published new guidance suggesting steps to tackle fly tipping at its source.

Ben Bradshaw, the Environment Minister with responsibility for waste issues, said: “Councils have tended to concentrate on clearance. That is vital, but there needs to be more emphasis on preventing fly-tipping happening in the first place.

“Prevention, coupled with coming down hard on those who are caught fly-tipping, could help reduce the problem and save money.”

“The Jill Dando Institute has provided some useful guidance on prevention.

Simple actions such as better collection services or longer opening times at local tips are often shown to make a real difference.

“This can be combined with further discouragement through CCTV and publicising the potential fines for fly-tipping, which have been increased through the recent Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act.”

The guide offers five pieces of advice to waste managers, looking at the causes of tipping in turn and suggesting possible solutions.

For those seeking to profit from illegal dumping, starving them of an income might work. This might be achieved by offering free collection of bulky items, and ensure neighbouring councils have similar charges for waste disposal to discourage people from taking waste across boundaries to make a quick buck.

Another reason people are prepared to fly tip is because they see little chance of getting caught. This can be addressed by installing CCTV cameras at known trouble spots and publicising prosecutions, says the guide.

On a similar note, piles of rubbish left where they stand have a tendency to grow as ‘casual’ fly tippers can see it as an excuse to dump their own waste there. The suggested solution is to address existing illegal dumps quickly and publicise the services available, as well as the penalties for tipping.

Two other closely related problems considered in the guide are both linked to convenience.

First it acknowledges long journeys to authorised tips can be frustrating, as can queuing on arrival. Once again, collection of bulky goods can go some way towards tackling this as can extended opening hours to allow people to bring their waste at a time more convenient to them.

The final cause the guide looks at is the comparative ease of disposing of waste legally or illegally. By increasing access to legal disposal and making it more difficult to use known fly tipping hot spots, the scales can tip in the favour of doing the right thing.

More details on Defra’s advice on combating fly tippers can be found here.

To compliment the Guide and increased powers available to councils through the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act, Defra will also soon be launching a training programme to help officers and council lawyers improve their skills to deal with fly-tipping.

Sam Bond

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