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A guide to fly-tipping and the penalties

Fly-tipping incidents in England have increased by nearly 40% in just six years, to almost one million occurrences in 2017/18. This has lead local councils to call for tougher sentences, whilst DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) states that combatting fly-tipping "remains a priority".

What is fly-tipping?

It’s the “illegal deposit of any waste onto land that does not have a licence to accept it”. In the UK, many forms of waste are fly-tipped, but the most common types include:

  • Household waste
  • Appliances such as fridges and washing machines
  • Waste from building and demolition work
  • Garden Rubbish
  • Vehicle parts
  • Hazardous wastes such as oil, asbestos sheeting and chemicals

Why is fly-tipping such a problem?

Fly-tipping is a threat to people and wildlife, causing serious damage to our environment, whilst harming legitimate waste businesses where illegal operators undercut those working within the law. Fly-tipping toxic material or asbestos can be extremely hazardous, and there could be a risk of damage to watercourses and soil quality from the dumped waste.

What are the consequences?

The legislation in England and Wales that fights fly-tipping is rather complex but it can largely be found in the Environmental Protection Act 1990, as amended by the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005. Penalties vary depending on the seriousness of the offence, as well as the overall impact on the environment, and the cost of cleaning or dealing with the waste that has been fly-tipped.

Households – Householders can incur a fine of up to £5,000 if they do not take responsible measures to ensure their waste is lawfully disposed of, whilst repeated fly-tipping can result in an Anti-Social Behaviour Order (ASBO) being made against the individual in question. A fixed penalty of £150 to £400 can be made against any householder who fails to comply with a notice for failing to use the facilities available to them. For example, most local councils provide waste disposal sites and recycling centres where individuals can safely and legally dispose of their unwanted items. The guidance shaped by the government for local councils states that householders should not be fined for very minor incidents and consideration should also be made as to whether it is proportionate to issue a notice to an individual classed as vulnerable.

Small Businesses – The repercussions for failing to provide the required documentation or failure of a small business to register as a waste carrier can also result in a fixed penalty of between £150 to £400, whilst any breach of a business’s duty of care to ensure waste is properly disposed of can result in a hefty fine (up to £5,000). It’s also important to note that the Environment Agency has the power to seize and dispose of vehicles that are used for fly-tipping. An ASBO may also be issued to repeat offenders whilst authorities may restrict use of business vehicles to prevent future offences from occurring.

Serious cases

In very serious cases, fly-tipping is punishable by a fine of up to £50,000 or 12 months imprisonment if convicted in a Magistrates’ Court. The offence can also attract an unlimited fine and up to 5 years imprisonment if convicted in a Crown Court. That said, there have been cases where fines have been hundreds of thousands of pounds, such as the case of United Utilities – a water company that was issued a £666,000 fine after admitting polluting a river with 21,700 cubic metres of raw sewage.

What should you do if you discover fly-tipped waste?

Never touch the waste as it may contain hazardous substances like toxic chemicals, glass or syringes. It’s also important that you must not disturb the site in any way, as there may be evidence that can help identify fly tippers. It’s recommended that you:

  • Try to work out what the waste consists of and the amount of waste before calling the police or reporting the crime here:
  • Make a note of the date and time you saw the tipping or found the waste, whilst it’s also useful to note down whether it is in or near water.
  • Take down any names of witnesses, as well as the number of people involved and what they look like.
  • Note down any details of vehicles such as the car make, registration and colour.

What efforts are being made to clamp down on fly-tipping?

Some local councils claim that the increase in fly-tipping is partly due to greater reporting of the issue from the public, however, the rise in fly-tipping is clear to see throughout the UK and it’s particularly costly for farmers and landowners, with it said to total out at £1,000 on average to clean up each incident, but for many rural businesses having to clear up a great deal of rubbish that’s been dumped on their property, it can “can quickly affect the bottom line dramatically” as stated by the Country Land and Business Association (CLA).

The penalties the government sets for fly-tipping incidents is generally fixed at a high rate otherwise it may still be cheaper to use an illegal waste collector, whilst it is intended as a deterrent. That said, if a penalty has been issued against against you and you do not pay, you can be prosecuted for the offence in the courts. As stated, the typical fine imposed at court is likely to be significantly higher than the penalty notice.

If you require assistance in this area or are having some issued with the local authority or Environment Agency, or simply wish to talk things through with our experienced team, please do not hesitate to call us today on 07000 81 82 83 or email and well respond to your request as soon as possible.

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