Even More Rubbish! Fly-tipping in the UK: the numbers – Updated


Feb 08, 2022

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Even More Rubbish! Fly-tipping in the UK: the numbers – Updated

We’ve all seen it. The rubbish dumped at the side of our motorways. The bin bags left in parks and near beauty spots. The old mattresses and household waste strewn on country roads.

Fly-tipping is a problem that has continued to blight our countryside for decades. And unfortunately, we’re seeing it again and again. In response to the first COVID-19 lockdown and the visible increase in fly-tipping, we first looked into the levels of fly-tipping from 2014 to 2020 (link to original data). But when we’ve been out and about in our countryside recently, it’s clear the problem continues to persist. So we had a look at the data again, submitting Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to the 400 councils across the UK.

And this is what we found.

What is fly-tipping

Just to be clear. When we talk about fly-tipping we’re talking about the “illegal deposit of any waste onto land that does not have a license to accept it”.

This could include people enjoying an afternoon in the park, decked out in a stylish jacket or hat and leaving their rubbish behind, dumping electrical items in the street, throwing old mattresses by the side of the road, or at the larger end of the scale, tipping truckloads of construction and demolition waste onto various types of land.

The problems of fly-tipping

Fly-tipping is costly to both the taxpayer and the environment.

  • Local councils have to spend considerably every year to investigate and clear up fly-tipping. This cost is ultimately passed onto taxpayers, as well as private landowners.
  • It poses a threat to humans and wildlife, impacting the environment, and affecting our enjoyment of the great outdoors.
  • Fly-tipping undermines legitimate waste businesses where illegal operators undercut those operating within the law.
  • Ongoing fly-tipping can impact the quality of local areas, having a knock-on effect on declining property prices and the viability of local businesses if people stay away from unsightly locations.

Fly-tipping in numbers

In the UK, fly-tipping hit a 10 year high in 2019. But has lockdown seen the problem get even worse? We decided to find out.

The top 10 fly-tipping hot-spots for 2021

In 2021, London seemed to suffer from a fly-tipping epidemic, with the London Boroughs of Newham, Lewisham, Hounslow and Haringey all dealing with over 20,000 incidents of fly-tipping in the first 10 months of 2021. Outside London, Edinburgh, Nottingham, Southampton and Manchester have also each dealt with over 10,000 incidents in 2021.

In 2021, the UK’s worst fly-tipping hotspots based on incidents in council jurisdictions (not reported by the public) are:

  • London Borough of Newham – 28,297
  • London Borough of Lewisham – 27,324
  • London Borough of Hounslow – 24,363
  • London Borough of Haringey – 21,950
  • City of Edinburgh – 12,626
  • Nottingham City Council – 11,797
  • Manchester City Council – 10,937
  • Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea – 10,724
  • Southampton Council – 10,075
  • Bristol Council – 9,885

Outside of London some of the worst affected areas of the country include the New Forest which saw a 194% jump in fly-tipping incidents between 2019 and 2020. Lewes District Council/Eastbourne Borough Council saw a 181% increase, followed by Fareham (75%) and Blackpool (55%).

The cost of fly-tipping for local councils

As well as being unsightly, blighting the countryside and posing a health hazard to humans, farm animals and wildlife, fly-tipping also means considerable costs for local authorities and taxpayers. Based on the FOI data returned, the figures reveal that the average local authority paid out a whopping £247,434 in 2020 clearing up litter left by thoughtless fly-tippers.

The London Borough of Newham spent over £1 million in 2020 cleaning up rubbish dumped by the public. And with over 400 local authorities across the UK, this figure is estimated to run into hundreds of millions for the whole of 2020. 

The Orkneys experienced a 161% increase in the cost of clearing up fly-tipping between 2019 and 2020, while Ashfield District Council saw a 133% increase in the same 12 months.

Fly-tipping is a shared problem and requires a shared solution

In the words of the Countryside Alliance: "We must all remember that fly-tipping is not a victimless crime and has a significant impact on rural areas and wildlife".

Martin Montague, the founder of ClearWaste.com, a free app and website that enables users to easily report fly-tipping, as well as access legitimate waste disposal providers anywhere in the UK, said: “Fly-tipping is a huge blight on the UK countryside. Fly-tipped rubbish poses environmental and health risks to people and wildlife, as well as ruining the beauty of rural areas - and that's why I created the app.

"As well as making reporting easier and helping people find licensed rubbish removal services, in terms of combating the scourge of fly-tipping, we also advocate much bigger fines and custodial sentences for those who persistently fly-tip. Every report we get provides valuable information and helps in the battle against fly-tippers.”

At TOG24, we’re committed to ensuring the beauty of our Great British countryside remains so, for the walkers, ramblers, cyclists, runners and families of today, tomorrow and the future.

We must all tackle the problem together. We’ll be looking at the data again in a year’s time to understand if we’re beginning to tackle it across the UK. Fingers crossed we are!

You can view the full dataset of responses from 150 local authorities here.
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