What a load of rubbish!

Fly-tipping in the UK: the numbers

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.

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 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. We decided to investigate and dig a little deeper into the issue by submitting Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to local councils from across the UK. This is what we found:

Between 2014 and 2019, incidents of fly tipping increased by 66%. The most dramatic increases were in the following areas:

  • Brent Council saw an increase of 165% between 2014 and 2019.
  • Nuneaton and Bedworth saw an increase of 132% between 2014 and 2019.
  • Falkirk saw an increase of 80% between 2014 and 2019.

In 2019, each local council had to deal with an average of 2568 incidents of fly tipping. Interestingly this is over and above those reported by the general public – coming in at just under 2,000 per local authority.

The costs of fly-tipping for councils and local authorities increased by 33% between 2014 and 2019, peaking in 2017 at an average of £270,000 per council.

On a regional basis, the following councils saw the biggest cost increases between 2014 and 2019:

  • Winchester: 357%.
  • Southampton: 133%.
  • Harrogate: 98%.
  • Cheshire East: 43%.

The below illustrates the full picture of our FOI research and the information submitted by local councils across the UK.

Mark Ward- TOG24 Managing Director, said “We wanted to understand how big an impact fly-tipping is having in the UK and on people’s enjoyment of our beautiful countryside, as it’s something we’ve noticed when we’ve been out and about, particularly over the past few months. We love the British countryside and are really keen for everyone else to love it as much as we do, but it's hard when there’s rubbish strewn everywhere.

“As well as the impact on the countryside, there’s also the financial aspect in terms of the costs to local authorities. As has been seen from the research carried out amongst local authorities around the UK these are significant costs at a time when councils face a lot of other challenges and this money could be better spent elsewhere, such as helping people get more access to the countryside which has proven benefits on mental and physical health and wellbeing.”

2020 and the Coronavirus effect

2020 has been a year like no other. On the 16th March 2020 everything changed, with the entire UK plunged into an unprecedented lockdown.

Whilst we have seen some benefits to the enforced lockdown, especially as restrictions began to ease, around the new-found enjoyment of many people walking, running and cycling in the great outdoors, it hasn’t been without its problems.

Specifically, an already escalating fly-tipping problem has become much worse.

From our FOI data (with the majority of the data collated before lockdown) we can see that councils already had to fork out an average of just under £140,000 to combat fly-tipping in 2020. This is likely to have increased dramatically due to Covid-19.

The reasons for this is down to many people using the time during lockdown to have clear outs of their homes and gardens and then dumping this rubbish illegally. This was exacerbated by the fact that many councils shut waste recycling centres during lockdown to concentrate on kerbside collections.

The continued increase of fly-tipping continues to put added pressure on local authorities already struggling to cope with maintaining services during these ongoing and unprecedented circumstances.

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".

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. The data from each authority that we received a response from can be seen in this spreadsheet.

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