Councils are also calling for a legal loophole – which means enforcement officers have to give some fly-tippers seven days written warning before inspecting them and seizing evidence – to be closed immediately to help them tackle the growing problem.
The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents more than 370 councils in England and Wales, says the “no-nonsense” approach comes as fly-tippers are becoming increasingly brazen with some operators even dumping next to “no fly-tipping” signs.
Councils are also reporting a significant rise in the so-called “man with van” phenomenon. This involves cold callers offering to “dispose” of unwanted household goods like fridges, mattresses, and furniture for cash, which are then fly-tipped. Households’ duty of care is being stressed, and are being warned by councils to only use reputable operators who can prove they dispose of rubbish responsibly. Cash in hand is usually a sign they aren’t, it says.
“There are a number of additional changes that would help tackle littering and fly-tipping, including sharing more of the responsibility with product producers – such as mattress and chewing gum manufacturers – to contribute to the costs of clear up.”
The call comes as the cost of clearing up fly-tipping in England has hit nearly £50m, with councils having to deal with almost 900,000 incidents every 12 months. Latest figures show the number of recorded incidents rose by almost 6% for 2014/15 compared with 2013/14, while the clear-up costs increased by 11%. Councils are carrying out over half a million enforcement actions every year, costing local taxpayers almost £18m.
Commercial waste is the second largest waste type contributing to fly-tipping incidents in England. Almost 9% of incidents in England in 2014/15 were of commercial waste. There was an 18% increase in commercial waste incidents from 65,000 in 2013/14 to 77,000 in 2014/15, latest figures reveal.
The LGA has long called for the system for tackling unscrupulous fly-tippers to be overhauled. It successfully campaigned for councils to be able to issue on-the-spot Fixed Penalty Notices by council enforcement officers to help tackle small-scale fly-tipping, like dumping items such as pieces of broken furniture, old televisions and mattresses.
These new powers, which were introduced in May, allow councils to issue on-the-spot fines of up to £400 for fly-tippers who “make residents’ lives hell” and cost taxpayers millions of pounds.
Residents and businesses play a key role in helping keep streets clean by reporting fly-tips. Many councils now offer smartphone apps to make this easier. Businesses are required by law to dispose of waste responsibly. Councils can advise on what they need to do, and how to find a reputable waste removal company.
LGA Environment spokesman Cllr Martin Tett said: “Councils are taking a zero-tolerance approach to fly-tipping and this means using every power at their disposal – including seizing and destroying vehicles used by the dumpers.
“Not only does fly-tipping create an eyesore for residents, it is also a serious public health risk, creating pollution and attracting rats and other vermin.”
“At a time when councils face difficult choices about services in light of reducing budgets, they are having to spend a vast amount each year on tackling litter and fly-tipping. This is money that would be better spent on vital services such as filling potholes and caring for the elderly. Litter and fly-tipping is environmental vandalism – it’s unpleasant, unnecessary and unacceptable.
“The Government has responded to our call for councils to be able to issue Fixed Penalty Notices for small scale fly-tipping – and this is a big step in the right direction. Councils also need a faster and more effective legal system which means fly-tippers are given hard-hitting fines for more serious offences. Local authorities should also be able to recoup all prosecution costs, rather than be left out of pocket.
“Not only does fly-tipping create an eyesore for residents, it is also a serious public health risk, creating pollution and attracting rats and other vermin.
“There are a number of additional changes that would help tackle littering and fly-tipping, including sharing more of the responsibility with product producers – such as mattress and chewing gum manufacturers – to contribute to the costs of clear up.
“Councils use enforcement powers proportionately and take a range of different approaches to raise awareness and change culture. This includes providing advice and encouraging residents to report incidents and businesses to keep areas next to their premises clean and clear of litter and mess that can attract dumping.”