Let there be no mistake – fly-tipping is a criminal activity. The Environment Agency states that, the estimated cost of clearance for fly-tipping to local authorities in England in 2016/17 was £57.7 million.
And it’s much more than just an economic burden that criminal fly-tippers impose on their fellow citizens. Fly-tipping attracts vermin, harms wildlife, causes fire risk and pollutes the land and air with toxic waste. And of course, it creates hideous blights on the beauty of the countryside.
And here are some statistics about fly-tipping in England during 2016/17:
- Town Halls dealt with more than 1 million cases of fly-tipping, a 7% increase on 2015/16
- Some 33% of fly-tipping cases were for a small van load of rubbish, while 27% consisted of a car-boot load of rubbish
- Town Halls carried out around 474,000 enforcement actions.
- In 2016/17 some 56,000 enforcement notices were issued, a huge increase of 56% on the previous year.
- Of all fly-tipping incidents, 67% involved household waste.
In legal terms, fly-tipping is the “illegal deposit of any waste onto land that does not have a licence to accept it”. This broad definition includes anything from dumping a black bag in the street to disposing of a tipper truck load of building waste in a farmer’s field.
Fly-tipping law is laid out in Section 33 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. It actually includes three offences: Fly-tipping; knowingly causing fly-tipping; and knowingly permitting fly-tipping.
If you are caught, prosecuted and found guilty of any of those three offences, the penalties can be severe.
For more minor offences, fly-tippers are dragged before the Magistrates’ Court. The Court can impose fines of up to £50,000 and sentence offenders to as much as 12 months in jail.
But if the offence is adjudged to have been more serious, the offender will appear before the Crown Court. It can impose much stiffer penalties. For those found guilty of fly-tipping a judge can impose an unlimited fine and sentence the offender to up to five years in prison.
Additionally if someone is caught fly-tipping, local authorities have the right to seize the vehicle involved in the crime. They can then dispose of the vehicle in any way they choose including having it crushed at a breaker’s yard.
And an extra level of punishments was introduced in May 2016. For more minor incidents of fly-tipping, local councils can impose on-the-spot fines of between £150 and £400.
Staying on the right side of the law
It’s important to understand that householders and businesses can end up in front of the courts even if they did not themselves do the fly-tipping.
If you hire someone to get rid of your waste, it’s actually your responsibility in law to ensure that the rubbish is disposed of legally. If you find someone on Facebook or Gumtree and pay them in cash to haul off your rubbish you run a real risk of prosecution if they are not legitimate operators.
If a dodgy man-and-a-van dumps your rubbish and it’s traced back to you, it will be you that will have to pay the price at the Magistrates’ or Crown Courts. That means not only fines, costs, victim surcharges and the possibility of prison, it means you’ll have a criminal record.
So how can you avoid this unpleasant outcome? Always check on the company or individual that offers to dispose of your waste. The waste operator must be registered with the Environment Agency and they should have the papers to prove it.
It’s also advisable to ask whoever you are hiring exactly where they will dispose of your waste. It must be an authorised site.
Sadly, there are all too many unscrupulous operators out there. It only takes a couple of minutes to check up to see if someone is genuine. If you don’t you could end up in a lot of trouble.
If you do see somebody fly-tipping, you can do your bit by reporting them. Avoid confronting them in person – many fly-tippers are also involved in other criminal activities and may be dangerous. You should record as many details as you can, including registrations of vehicles, and report the matter to your local authority.
The final word…
So remember, don’t use dodgy waste disposal companies or individuals. You might save a few pounds initially, but it could then cost you thousands in fines and costs, and you’ll have a criminal record. Always use a reputable firm that’s properly licensed and accredited.