Thursday, August 22, 2019

Fly-tipping epidemic ‘just the tip of the iceberg’

May 1, 2019 by  
Filed under News & Business

More than 3,000 fly-tipping incidents on farmland were reported to England’s councils last year – but one expert says the pile of illegal rubbish is just the tip of the iceberg.

Defra figures indicate a total of 3,274 fly-tipping incidents on agricultural land last year. But the true number is likely to be much higher because the statistics exclude the majority of incidents on private land, said Will Kendrick, of insurance brokers Farmers & Mercantile.

To make matters worse, farmers who fall prey to this crime have to shoulder the burden. They have to meet the cost of clearing rubbish from their land themselves – at an average cost of £1,000 per incident. They are also liable if the dumped rubbish damages the countryside.   

“Fly-tipping is a blight on our countryside, but dumped waste is not only visually impactful and a nuisance,” said Mr Kendrick. “It can be a source of pollution and cause harm to humans, animals and the environment.”

Hazardous waste

It is not only everyday household waste that gets dumped by fly-tippers. Many incidents include lorry loads of hazardous industrial waste. Thousands of incidents involve asbestos, clinical waste and chemical and fuel waste too.

“Farmers are not only have to fork out for clean-up costs but also have to worry about the danger it poses to themselves, their workers, their animals and their land,” said Mr Kendrick. They could also be  prosecuted under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, he added.

Because of this, some farmers deal quietly with fly-tipping – reluctantly accepting the problem is part of their everyday lives. “Farmers have the choice of footing the clean-up bill or facing significant fines for not dealing with someone else’s mess,” said Mr Kendrick.

Farm insurance policies should be checked to make sure they include sufficient protection for fly-tipping, particularly in the case of repeat offences. Many policies covered the cost of fly-tipping at about £5,000 per incident – although it could be capped at £15,000.

The Country Land and Business Association has also warned that official statistics fail to reflect the true extent of fly-tipping. CLA regional surveyor Tim Woodward said: “The reality is that fly-tipping incidents remain alarmingly high.”

Many incidents went unreported, added Mr Woodward. “Private landowners are liable for any waste dumped on their land and are fed up of clearing away other people’s mess and paying for the privilege,” he said.

“It is vital that more prosecutions are brought forward successfully to encourage people to do the right thing and dispose of their rubbish through proper legal channels. Councils must send a clear message to fly-tippers that they will face financial consequences.

“But to really combat this crime against the countryside we need to see tougher penalties which act as a true deterrent. Imposing and enforcing penalties which better reflect the seriousness of the crime, such as seizing vehicles used to fly-tip, is crucial.”