Defra has today (24) published its latest statistics for fly-tipping in England after a BBC Panorama investigation revealed an incident where a licensed waste carrier was involved in fly-tipping.
According to the latest statistics for fly-tipping in England which covers 2019/20, over 75,000 fixed penalty notices (FPNs) were issued for fly-tipping – an increase of 32% since 2016 when councils were given the power to issue fly-tipping FPNs. Prosecutions have also more than doubled over the same period, with total court fines last year totalling nearly £1.2 million.
Councils in England dealt with 976,000 fly-tipping incidents, an increase of 2% from the 957,000 reported in 2018/19, with the most common size category being equivalent to a ‘small van load’ of waste (34% of total incidents), followed by the equivalent of a ‘car boot or less’ (28%).
Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said: “Fly-tipping is completely unacceptable, and these cynical offenders need to know that councils are taking increasing action and that they face on-the-spot fines of £400 or up to five years in prison if convicted in court.
Regulating against this behaviour and prosecuting offenders is challenging and, coupled with relatively low penalties even when an offender is convicted, these factors unfortunately make fly-tipping a low-risk and high-reward crime
“Over 75,000 fixed penalty notices were issued in 2019/20 – an increase of 32% since 2016 – and prosecutions have more than doubled over the same period, with total court fines last year totalling nearly £1.2 million.
“We are committed to tackling waste crime even further, but there is more that we must all do. Everyone has a legal duty of care when handling waste, and all householders and businesses must ensure that they pass their waste to licensed carriers, as failure to do so could result in a £400 fine.”
Pat Jennings, CIWM’s Policy, Knowledge and External Affairs Director, said: “These figures demonstrate that the fight against fly-tipping, both small and large incidents, must remain a priority. Tougher financial penalties and sentences are part of the answer and so is work currently underway to reform the regulatory regime for waste carriers, brokers and dealers.
“We know that this is an area where illegal waste activity occurs and CIWM and other stakeholders are feeding into the Government’s thinking as it shapes the reforms. The latest figures also highlight that there needs to be a renewed focus on driving up awareness among householders of their Duty of Care. With two thirds of incidents involving household waste, it is clear that message is not well understood.”
Head of Regulation at the Environmental Services Association (ESA), Sam Corp, said: “Today’s figures show that fly-tipping is unfortunately on the rise, with nearly a million incidents in England alone during 2019/29.
“Fly-tipping is one of the most common and pervasive environmental crimes, which affects not just the environment, but also has social, economic and health implications too.
“Regulating against this behaviour and prosecuting offenders is challenging and, coupled with relatively low penalties even when an offender is convicted, these factors unfortunately make fly-tipping a low-risk and high-reward crime.”
BBC Panorama investigation
Panorama hired a garage & filled it with rubbish before asking a licensed company to collect it
Little did the company know that the programme team had hidden trackers inside some of the items
So where did the rubbish end up?
— Panorama 🌐 (@BBCPanorama) February 22, 2021
The figures were published today (24 February) following a BBC Panorama investigation that aired last night (23 February) which exposed an incident where the government’s licensing system for waste carriers ‘fails to stop fly-tipping’, the BBC says.
Panorama filled a garage in Harlow, Essex with waste that it says ‘would be difficult to dispose’ of without paying fees under the landfill tax and then asked a licensed company to collect it.
Tracking devices were placed in the waste and Bears Waste Disposal from Letchworth took the job on for £120. The items were later found fly-tipped in a country lane just off the A1.
Chris Poulter, from Bears Waste Disposal, told Panorama he had ‘never fly-tipped’ and he had sub-contracted the job to somebody else.
He said he had only taken the Harlow job as a one-off because another waste carrier had offered to dispose of the waste for him.
‘I am sorry this has happened,’ he said. ‘I would never take any jobs on with the intention of it being fly-tipped.’
All businesses that transport and dispose of waste in England have to be licensed with the Environment Agency.
ESA recognises that Defra has been working to reform the system, to include more rigorous front-end checks, competency requirement and mandatory electronic waste tracking, but we are keen to see quicker progress and more resources allocated to the Environment Agency in particular
The government said the licensing system is currently in the process of being reformed to ensure ‘stricter background and competency checks’.
A Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs spokesperson said the Environment Agency had been given additional powers and funding.
The spokesperson said: “We will also reform the licensing system for waste carriers to ensure stricter background and competency checks which, in combination with mandatory electronic waste tracking, will increase compliance and make it harder for criminals to operate.”
The ESA’s Sam Corp said that both these latest statistics, and the recent BBC Panorama investigation, “highlight the need once more for us all to be aware of our legal duty of care when having our waste collected by a third party – whether this is hiring a bin, a skip or a ‘man in a van’ – to stop waste falling into the wrong hands.”
The statistics show that small van and car boot sized loads account for nearly two thirds of fly-tipping incidents.
He said: “However, as the ESA first flagged back in our 2015 research ‘Britain’s Dirty Secret’ and 2017 in ‘Rethinking Waste Crime’, there are failings in the waste carriers’ registration system which unfortunately make it all too easy for criminal operators to appear legitimate.
“ESA recognises that Defra has been working to reform the system, to include more rigorous front-end checks, competency requirement and mandatory electronic waste tracking, but we are keen to see quicker progress and more resources allocated to the Environment Agency in particular. Waste crime, including fly-tipping, is not reducing and has serious consequences for both the environment and for legitimate waste businesses.”
The ESA is due to publish further independent research later this year exploring the incidence of waste crime and its economic impact, which will set out to provide a “better understanding” of the scale of the problem today, as well as to encourage “greater momentum” in proposed government policy changes alongside tougher enforcement.
Last year the government set up a new unit to tackle the most serious cases. The Joint Unit for Waste Crime is targeting the organised criminal gangs that make millions by dumping waste on an industrial scale.
Councils are able to issue on-the-spot fines to fly-tippers of up to £400 and can stop, search and seize vehicles suspected of being used for fly-tipping. Local authorities and the Environment Agency are also able to issue penalties of up to £400 to householders who do not pass their waste to a licensed carrier and whose waste is then found fly-tipped.
Fly-tippers can also be prosecuted and taken to court, which can lead to a significant fine and/or up to 12 months imprisonment if convicted in a Magistrates’ Court or an unlimited fine and/or up to 5 years imprisonment if convicted in a Crown Court.
Fly-tipping prosecutions are “highly successful”, Defra says, with over 98% of prosecutions resulting in a conviction in 2019/20.
The Environment Agency is also clamping down on waste crime and large-scale illegal dumping. Between 2017 and 2020, the Agency stopped illegal waste activity at 2,700 sites and initiated 191 prosecutions for illegal waste sites, with 39 prison sentences handed down. It also issued fines of over £1.1m for illegal waste sites, plus £5.5m in Proceeds of Crime Act confiscation orders.
In 2019/20 alone, the Agency prosecuted nearly 100 individuals and companies for waste crime offences, with fines exceeding £900,000, 28 custodial sentences and £1m of confiscation orders.
2019/20 statistics and comparisons
- In 2019/20, local authorities in England dealt with 976,000 fly-tipping incidents, an increase of 2% from the 957,000 reported in 2018/19.
- The number of fixed penalty notices (FPNs) issued in 2019/20 was 75,400, an increase of 32% (18,100) on 2016/17 (Total = 57,300). FPNs in 2019/20 were the second most common action (after investigations), and accounted for 16% of all actions in 2019/20.
- The number of prosecution actions has increased by 23% year-on-year, from 2,400 in 2018/19 to 2,944 in 2019/20, with an 87% (1,373) increase on 2016/17 (Total = 1,571).
- Over 98% of prosecutions in 2019/20 resulted in a conviction.
- The number of court fines issued has increased from 2,056 (30%) in 2018/19 to 2,671 in 2019/20, with the number of fines more than doubling since 2016/17 which stood at 1,318.
- The value of total fines increased to £1,170,000 in 2019/20. This is an increase of 7% on 2018/19 and 62% on 2016/17 when total value was £723,000.
- Just under two thirds (65%) of fly-tips involved household waste. Total incidents involving household waste were 632,000 in 2019/20, an increase of 7% from 588,000 in 2018/19.
- The most common place for fly-tipping to occur was on highways (pavements and roads), which accounted for over two fifths (43%) of total incidents in 2019/20. In 2019/20, the number of highway incidents was 419,000, which was an increase of 6% from 396,000 in 2018/19.
- The most common size category for fly-tipping incidents in 2019/20 was equivalent to a ‘small van load’ (34% of total incidents), followed by the equivalent of a ‘car boot or less’ (28%).
- In 2019/20, 33,000 or 3% of total incidents were of ‘tipper lorry load’ size or larger, which is a decrease of 8% from 36,000 in 2018/19. For these large fly-tipping incidents, the cost of clearance to local authorities in England in 2019/20 was £10.9 million, compared with £12.8 million in 2018/19.